Membrane Disintegration Caused by the Steroid Saponin Digitonin Is Related to the Presence of Cholesterol

Sudji, Ikhwan Resmala; Subburaj, Yamunadevi; Frenkel, Nataliya; García-Sáez, Ana J.; Wink, Michael
November 2015
Molecules;2015, Vol. 20 Issue 11, p20146
Academic Journal
In the present investigation we studied the molecular mechanisms of the monodesmosidic saponin digitonin on natural and artificial membranes. We measured the hemolytic activity of digitonin on red blood cells (RBCs). Also different lipid membrane models (large unilamellar vesicles, LUVs, and giant unilamellar vesicles, GUVs) in the presence and absence of cholesterol were employed. The stability and permeability of the different vesicle systems were studied by using calcein release assay, GUVs membrane permeability assay using confocal microscopy (CM) and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) and vesicle size measurement by dynamic light scattering (DLS). The results support the essential role of cholesterol in explaining how digitonin can disintegrate biological and artificial membranes. Digitonin induces membrane permeability or causes membrane rupturing only in the presence of cholesterol in an all-or-none mechanism. This effect depends on the concentrations of both digitonin and cholesterol. At low concentrations, digitonin induces membrane permeability while keeping the membrane intact. When digitonin is combined with other drugs, a synergistic potentiation can be observed because it facilitates their uptake.


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