Accurate separation of vesicles, micelles and cholesterol crystals in supersaturated model biles by ultracentrifugation, ultrafiltration and dialysis

Antonio Moschetta, Erik R M Eckhardt, Martin B M De Smet, Willem Renooij, Gerard P. Van Berge-Henegouwen, Karel J. Van Erpecum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Gel filtration with bile salts at intermixed micellar/vesicular concentrations (IMC) in the eluant has been proposed to isolate vesicles and micelles from supersaturated model biles, but the presence of vesicular aggregates makes this method unreliable. We have now validated a new method for isolation of various phases. First, aggregated vesicles and - if present - cholesterol crystals are pelleted by short ultracentrifugation. Cholesterol contained in crystals and vesicular aggregates can be quantitated from the difference of cholesterol contents in the pellets before and after bile salt-induced solubilization of the vesicular aggregates. Micelles are then isolated by ultrafiltration of the supernatant through a highly selective 300 kDa filter and unilamellar vesicles by dialysis against buffer containing bile salts at IMC values. Lipids contained in unilamellar vesicles are also estimated by subtraction of lipid contents in filtered micelles from lipid contents in (unilamellar vesicle+micelle containing) supernatant ('subtraction method'). 'Ultrafiltration-dialysis' and 'subtraction' methods yielded identical lipid solubilization in unilamellar vesicles and identical vesicular cholesterol/phospholipid ratios. In contrast, gel filtration yielded much more lipids in micelles and less in unilamellar vesicles, with much higher vesicular cholesterol/phospholipid ratios. When vesicles obtained by dialysis were analyzed by gel filtration, vesicular cholesterol/phospholipid ratios increased strongly, despite correct IMC values for bile salts in the eluant. Subsequent extraction of column material showed significant amounts of lipids. In conclusion, gel filtration may underestimate vesicular lipids and overestimate vesicular cholesterol/phospholipid ratios, supposedly because of lipids remaining attached to the column. Combined ultracentrifugation-ultrafiltration-dialysis should be considered state-of-the-art methodology for quantification of cholesterol carriers in model biles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-27
Number of pages13
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 31 2001


  • Bile salt
  • Cholesterol
  • Dialysis
  • Intermixed micellar/vesicular bile salt concentration
  • Micelle
  • Vesicle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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