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Deciphering Melatonin-Stabilized Phase Separation in Phospholipid Bilayers...

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12236 to 12245

Lipid bilayers are fundamental building blocks of cell membranes, which contain the machinery needed to perform a range of biological functions, including cell–cell recognition, signal transduction, receptor trafficking, viral budding, and cell fusion. Importantly, many of these functions are thought to take place in the laterally phase-separated regions of the membrane, commonly known as lipid rafts. Here, we provide experimental evidence for the “stabilizing” effect of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland, on phase-separated model membranes mimicking the outer leaflet of plasma membranes. Specifically, we show that melatonin stabilizes the liquid-ordered/liquid-disordered phase coexistence over an extended range of temperatures. The melatonin-mediated stabilization effect is observed in both nanometer- and micrometer-sized liposomes using small angle neutron scattering (SANS), confocal fluorescence microscopy, and differential scanning calorimetry. To experimentally detect nanoscopic domains in 50 nm diameter phospholipid vesicles, we developed a model using the Landau–Brazovskii approach that may serve as a platform for detecting the existence of nanoscopic lateral heterogeneities in soft matter and biological materials with spherical and planar geometries.