Permeability characteristics of the adipocyte cell membrane and partitioning characteristics of the adipocyte triglyceride core

Bette C. Sherrill, John M. Dietschy

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1 Scopus citations


The unidirectional rates of passive permeation of a homologous series of saturated fatty acids and bile acids into rat epididymal adipocytes were measured to determine the permeability characteristics of this mammalian cell membrane. For fatty acids containing 5 to 12 carbon atoms the logarithm of the permeability coefficient was a linear function of the number of carbons in the fatty acid chain: fatty acids with less than five carbon atoms, showed anomalously high permeabilities. Using the data for the fatty acids with 5 to 12 carbon atoms, the incremental free energy of transfer (δΔFw→l) of the -CH2 moiety from the aqueous environment into the fat cell was calculated to equal -547 cal mole-1. The δΔFw→l of the -OH moiety calculated from data using bile acids as the probe molecules was +1,225 cal mole-1. After rupturing the fat cells by freeze-thawing, partition ratios also were measured between buffer and the lipid phase of the adipocyte core using both ratios, δΔFw→l for the -CH2 and -OH substituent groups was calculated to equal -830 and +2,070 cal mole-1, respectively. On the basis of these studies, two, conclusions were drawn. First, like many epithelial surfaces and the erythrocyte membrane, the fat cell membrane exhibits anomalously high permeabilities to small molecular weight, polar compounds. Since this behavior in the adipocyte, as in the erythrocyte, cannot be attributed to structures such as tight junctions, it must be explained on the basis of some physico-chemical feature of the cell membrane itself. Secondly, the values of the δΔFw→l indicate that the adipocyte membrane is less polar than the intestinal and gallbladder membranes but more polar than the membranes of Nitella and the erythrocyte.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-383
Number of pages17
JournalThe Journal of Membrane Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 1975

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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