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Asymmetric phospholipids impart novel biophysical properties to lipid bilayers allowing environmental adaptation

By Paul Smith, Dylan M Owen, Christian D. Lorenz, Maria Makarova

Posted 03 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.03.130450

Phospholipids are a diverse group of biomolecules consisting of a hydrophilic head group and two hydrophobic acyl tails. The nature of the head and length and saturation of the acyl tails are important for defining the biophysical properties of lipid bilayers. It has recently been shown that the membranes of certain yeast species contain high levels of unusual asymmetric phospholipids, consisting of one long and one medium chain acyl moiety; a configuration not common in mammalian cells or other well studied model yeast species. This raises the possibility that structurally asymmetric phospholipids impart novel biophysical properties to the yeast membranes. Here, we use atomistic molecular dynamics simulations (MD) and environmentally-sensitive fluorescent membrane probes to characterize key biophysical parameters of membranes formed from asymmetric lipids for the first time. Interestingly, we show that saturated, but asymmetric phospholipids maintain membrane lipid order across a wider range of temperatures and do not require acyl tail unsaturation or sterols to maintain their properties. This may allow cells to maintain membrane fluidity even in environments which lack the oxygen required for the synthesis of unsaturated lipids and sterols. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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