Trapping crystal nucleation of cholesterol monohydrate: Relevance to pathological crystallization

Inna Solomonov, Markus J. Weygand, Kristian Kjaer, Hanna Rapaport, Leslie Leiserowitz

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Crystalline nucleation of cholesterol at the air-water interface has been studied via grazing incidence x-ray diffraction using synchrotron radiation. The various stages of cholesterol molecular assembly from monolayer to three bilayers incorporating interleaving hydrogen-bonded water layers in a monoclinic cholesterol · H2O phase, has been monitored and their structures characterized to near atomic resolution. Crystallographic evidence is presented that this multilayer phase is similar to that of a reported metastable cholesterol phase of undetermined structure obtained from bile before transformation to the triclinic phase of cholesterol · H2O, the thermodynamically stable macroscopic form. According to grazing incidence x-ray diffraction measurements and crystallographic data, a transformation from the monoclinic film structure to a multilayer of the stable monohydrate phase involves, at least initially, an intralayer cholesterol rearrangement in a single-crystal-to-single-crystal transition. The preferred nucleation of the monoclinic phase of cholesterol · H2O followed by transformation to the stable monohydrate phase may be associated with an energetically more stable cholesterol bilayer arrangement of the former and a more favorable hydrogen-bonding arrangement of the latter. The relevance of this nucleation process of cholesterol monohydrate to pathological crystallization of cholesterol from cell biomembranes is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1809-1817
Number of pages9
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2005


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