Phase transition and crystal structure of the 37 degrees C form of cholesterol

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Science  06 May 1983:
Vol. 220, Issue 4597, pp. 604-606
DOI: 10.1126/science.6836303


Crystalline cholesterol undergoes a phase transition a few degrees below human body temperature. The high-temperature form has an unusually complex structure with 16 independent molecules. In the transition two molecules change side chain conformation, four reorient about their long axes, and ten remain unchanged. The transition mechanism implies relatively nonspecific intermolecular interactions, qualitatively consistent with the behavior of cholesterol in biomembranes. The transition preserves a remarkably closely obeyed pseudosymmetry present in the structure.