Molecular interactions and thermotropic behavior of glycosphingolipids in model membrane systems

Bruno Maggio, G. D. Fidelio, F. A. Cumar, Robert K. Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The oligosaccharide chain of glycosphingolipids (GSLs) has a marked influence on their thermotropic behavior, intermolecular packing and surface electrical potential. The transition temperature and enthalpy of GSLs decrease proportionally to the complexity of the polar head group and show a linear dependence with the intermolecular spacings. Interactions occurring among GSLs and phospholipids induce changes of the molecular area and surface potential that depend on the type of GSLs. Increasing proportions of phospholipids perturb the thermodynamic properties of the GSLs up to a point where phase separated phospholipid domains separate out but no phase separation of pure GSLs occurs. Heterogeneous equilibria among different structures occur for some systems. Large changes of the molecular free energy, eccentricity, asymmetry ratio and phase state of the GSLs-containing structure can be triggered by small changes of the molecular parameters, lipid composition and lateral surface pressure. The thermotropic behavior of GSLs is considerably perturbed by myelin basic protein. Phase separation occurs depending on the amount of protein and type of GSLs. The protein induces a decrease of the lipid molecular area, the more so the more complex the oligosaccharide chain in the GSLs. These membrane systems can not be described only on the basis of the individual properties of the molecules involved in a simple causal manner. Still scarcely explored long range thermodynamic, geometric and field effects that belong simultaneously to the intervening molecules, to the morphological properties of the structure involved and to the aqueous environment, are important determinants of their behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-63
Number of pages15
JournalChemistry and Physics of Lipids
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Dec 15 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • differential scanning calorimetry
  • gangliosides
  • glycosphingolipid-protein interactions
  • molecular area
  • monolayers
  • myelin basic protein
  • phase transitions
  • sulphatides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Cell Biology


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