Preservation of Membranes in Anhydrobiotic Organisms: The Role of Trehalose

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Science  17 Feb 1984:
Vol. 223, Issue 4637, pp. 701-703
DOI: 10.1126/science.223.4637.701


Trehalose is a nonreducing disaccharide of glucose commonly found at high concentrations in anhydrobiotic organisms. In the presence of trehalose, dry dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine (DPPC) had a transition temperature similar to that of the fully hydrated lipid, whereas DPPC dried without trehalose had a transition temperature about 30 degrees Kelvin higher. Results obtained with infrared spectroscopy indicate that trehalose and DPPC interact by hydrogen bonding between the OH groups in the carbohydrate and the polar head groups of DPPC. These and previous results show that this hydrogen bonding alters the spacing of the polar head groups and may thereby decrease van der Waals interactions in the hydrocarbon chains of the DPPC. This interaction between trehalose and DPPC is specific to trehalose. Hence this specificity may be an important factor in the ability of this molecule to stabilize dry membranes in anhydrobiotic organisms.

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