L. J. Nåbo, N. H. List, S. Witzke, D. Wüstner, H. Khandelia, J. Kongsted
Cholesterol (Chol) and ergosterol (Erg) are abundant and important sterols in the plasma membrane of mammalian and yeast cells, respectively. The effects of Chol and Erg on membrane properties, as well as their intracellular transport, can be studied with use of fluorescence probes mimicking both sterols as closely as possible. In the search for new and efficient Chol and Erg probes, we use a combination of theoretical methods to explore a series of analogs. The optical properties of the analogs (i.e. excitation energies, emission energies and oscillator strengths) are examined using time-dependent density functional theory (TDDFT) and their ability to mimic the effects of Chol and Erg on membranes is investigated with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of each analog in a 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-phosphatidylcholine (POPC) bilayer. From the set of analogs we find two probes (3a and 3b) to display favorable electronic transition properties as well as strong condensing abilities. These findings can lead to the use of new efficient probes and aid in the understanding of the structural features of Chol and Erg that impart to them their unique effects on lipid membranes.