Cholesterol Depletion by MβCD Enhances Cell Membrane Tension and Its Variations-Reducing Integrity.


Department of Biological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, Mohanpur, West Bengal, India. Electronic address: [Email]


Cholesterol depletion by methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MβCD) remodels the plasma membrane's mechanics in cells and its interactions with the underlying cytoskeleton, whereas in red blood cells, it is also known to cause lysis. Currently it's unclear if MβCD alters membrane tension or only enhances membrane-cytoskeleton interactions-and how this relates to cell lysis. We map membrane height fluctuations in single cells and observe that MβCD reduces temporal fluctuations robustly but flattens spatial membrane undulations only slightly. Utilizing models explicitly incorporating membrane confinement besides other viscoelastic factors, we estimate membrane mechanical parameters from the fluctuations' frequency spectrum. This helps us conclude that MβCD enhances membrane tension and does so even on ATP-depleted cell membranes where this occurs despite reduction in confinement. Additionally, on cholesterol depletion, cell membranes display higher intracellular heterogeneity in the amplitude of spatial undulations and membrane tension. MβCD also has a strong impact on the cell membrane's tenacity to mechanical stress, making cells strongly prone to rupture on hypo-osmotic shock with larger rupture diameters-an effect not hindered by actomyosin perturbations. Our study thus demonstrates that cholesterol depletion increases membrane tension and its variability, making cells prone to rupture independent of the cytoskeletal state of the cell.