Physical properties of cholesteryl esters.
Cholesteryl esters, the intracellular storage form and intravascular transport form of cholesterol, can exist in crystal, liquid crystal and liquid states. The physical state of cholesteryl esters at physiologic temperatures may be a determinant of their pathogenicity. This review has surveyed saturated aliphatic cholesteryl esters of chain length 1 to 24 carbons and a series of medium-chained unsaturated cholesteryl esters from chain lengths 14 to 24 carbons. A systematic study of transition temperatures by polarizing microscopy and enthalpies by differential scanning calorimetry has provided unifying concepts concerning the phase behavior as a function of chain length and unsaturation. Neat cholesteryl esters show chain-length dependence of transition temperature and enthalpy of both the crystal and liquid crystal transitions. Double bond position along the fatty acyl chain affected stability of the liquid crystal phases; a smectic phase was not observed for any cholesteryl ester with a double bond more proximal than delta 9. 13C NMR spectroscopy in the isotropic liquid phase has provided evidence suggesting a balance of ring-ring vs. chain-chain interactions as a determinant for isotropic liquid----cholesteric vs. isotropic liquid----smectic transitions. Specifically, anisotropic molecular motions of the steroid ring are greater for cholesteryl esters forming a cholesteric phase than a smectic phase from the melt. Chain-chain interactions apparently predominate in smectic phase formation. The X-ray diffraction patterns of cholesteryl esters as a function of chain length reveal several isostructural series and known single crystal data are presented. A chain length depending on the periodicity of the smectic phase is observed which may be different for saturated vs. unsaturated esters. In summary, the phase behavior of cholesteryl ester molecules is complex and cannot be determined a priori from the phase behavior of component cholesterol and fatty acid. The data presented here should provide insight into the biological behavior of this lipid class.
Ginsburg, GS; Atkinson, D; Small, DM
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
Pubmed Central ID
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)