Thermotropic behavior of retinal rod membranes and dispersions of extracted phospholipids

George P. Miljanich, Michael F. Brown, Susan Mabrey-Gaud, Edward A. Dratz, Julian M. Sturtevant

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32 Scopus citations


High sensitivity, differential scanning calorimetry studies of vovine retinal rod outer segment (ROS) disk membranes and aqueous dispersions of the extracted ROS phospholipids have been performed. ROS disk membranes were found to exhibit a broad peak of excess heat capacity with a maximum at less than about 3°C, ascribable to a gel-to-liquid crystalline phase transition of traction of the phospholipids. A similar thermotropic transition was observed for aqueous dispersions of the total extracted and purified ROS phospholipids. Comparison of the results obtained for the dispersion of total ROS phospholipids to those of the purified head group fractions. suggests that the thermotropic behavior reffects a gel-to-liquid crystalline transition, leading to lateral phase separation, involving those phosphatidylcholine (PC) molecules containing saturated fatty acylchains, possibley together with the highest melting ROS phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and phosphatidylserine (PS) components. The interpretation of the thermal behavior of the ROS disk membranes depends on whether the transition is assumed to derive from the ROS PC and/or PE/PS fractions, and whether the transbilayer arrangement of the ROS phospholipids is assumed to be symmetric or asymmetric. The calorimetric data can be simply explained in terms of an asymmetric distribution of the major ROS disk membrane phospholipids (G.P. Miljanich et al., J. Membrane Biol.60:249-255, 1981). In this case, the transition would arise from the PE/PS fractions in the outer ROS disk membrane monolyer, and the anticipated transition from the PC in the inner monolayer would be broadened due to interaction with cholesterol. For the ROS membranes at higher temperatures, two additional, irreversible transitions are observed at 57 and 72°C, corresponding to the thermal denauturation of opsin and rhodopsin, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
JournalThe Journal of Membrane Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1985


  • cholesterol
  • differential scanning calorimetrý
  • lipid phase transitions
  • membrane asymmetry
  • proitein denaturation
  • retinal rod membranes
  • rhodopsin
  • vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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