Coincident exposure of phosphatidylethanolamine and anionic phospholipids on the surface of irradiated cells

Andrei Marconescu, Philip E. Thorpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The major anionic phospholipid, phosphatidylserine (PS), and the neutral phospholipid, phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), are largely confined to the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane bilayer in mammalian cells under normal conditions. This asymmetry is lost when cells undergo apoptosis, become activated, or are exposed to irradiation, reactive oxygen species or certain drugs. It is not known whether exposure of anionic phospholipids (APLs) and PE occurs simultaneously or in the same region of the plasma membrane. Here we examined the coincidence of exposure of APLs and PE on the surface of bovine aortic endothelial cells and NS0 myeloma cells after irradiation. The cells were irradiated (5 Gy) and stained for APLs and PE using liposomes coated with either an Fab′ fragment of a PS-binding antibody (bavituximab) or a PE-binding peptide (duramycin). Using live cell imaging and flow cytometry, we showed that irradiation leads to synchronous externalization of APLs and PE. The time course of appearance of APLs and PE on the cell surface was the same and the two phospholipid types remained colocalized over time. Distinct patches double positive for APLs and PE were visible. Larger areas of APLs and PE appeared to have detached from the cytoskeleton to form membrane blebs which protruded and drifted on the cell surface. We conclude that APLs and PE coincidently appear on the external leaflet of the plasma membrane of cells after irradiation. Probably, this is because PE and the major APL, PS, share common regulatory mechanisms of translocation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2217-2224
Number of pages8
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Anionic phospholipids
  • Apoptosis
  • Irradiation
  • Membrane blebs
  • Phosphatidylethanolamine
  • Phosphatidylserine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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