Reconciliation of opposing views on membrane-sugar interactions.

Heidi D. Andersen, Chunhua Wang, Lise Arleth, Günther H.J. Peters, Peter Westh

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


It is well established that small sugars exert different types of stabilization of biomembranes both in vivo and in vitro. However, the essential question of whether sugars are bound to or expelled from membrane surfaces, i.e., the sign and size of the free energy of the interaction, remains unresolved, and this prevents a molecular understanding of the stabilizing mechanism. We have used small-angle neutron scattering and thermodynamic measurements to show that sugars may be either bound or expelled depending on the concentration of sugar. At low concentration, small sugars bind quite strongly to a lipid bilayer, and the accumulation of sugar at the interface makes the membrane thinner and laterally expanded. Above â¼0.2 M the sugars gradually become expelled from the membrane surface, and this repulsive mode of interaction counteracts membrane thinning. The dual nature of sugar-membrane interactions offers a reconciliation of conflicting views in earlier reports on sugar-induced modulations of membrane properties.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1874-1878
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Preferential binding
  • Membrane interface
  • Interaction free energy
  • Membrane structure
  • Preferential exclusion

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