Cholesterol is an important constituent of eukaryotic cell membranes, whose interaction with phospholipids leads to a broad range of biological roles, such as: maintenance of proper fluidity, formation of raft domains, reduction of passive permeability of various chemical species through the bilayer (e.g., glucose, glycerol, K+, Na+ and Cl− ions), and increased mechanical strength of the membrane. In this work we studied an interesting paradigm, as to whether cholesterol-containing phosphatidylcholine biomembranes influence the kinetics and transport features of alamethicin oligomers embedded into it. We demonstrate that moderate relative amounts of cholesterol increase the electrical conductance of various sub-conductance states of the alamethicin oligomer, caused probably by a non-monotonic change in the lumped dipole moment of the biomembrane. Our data suggest that biomembrane stiffness caused by cholesterol, visibly modifies the association-dissociation rates of alamethicin oligomerization in the biomembrane. Moreover, increasing concentrations of cholesterol seem to lead to more stable intermediate alamethicin oligomers. We show that in the presence of cholesterol, as the diameter of the alamethicin oligomer increases, so does the time of another monomer to get picked up. These results brings into focus the interesting issue of how oligomerization of proteins affects their interaction affinities for membrane-based lipids.
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