Self-Organisation, Thermotropic and Lyotropic Properties of Glycolipids Related to their Biological Implications

Patrick Garidel 1, Yani Kaconis 2, Lena Heinbockel 2, Matthias Wulf 3, Sven Gerber 3, Ariane Munk 3, Volkmar Vill 3, Klaus Brandenburg 2, *
1 Physikalische Chemie, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle/Wittenberg, Mühlpforte 1, D-06108 Halle/Saale, Germany
2 Forschungszentrum Borstel, Leibniz-Zentrum für Medizin und Biowissenschaften, Parkallee 1-40, D-23845 Borstel, Germany
3 Institut für Organische Chemie, Universität Hamburg, Martin-Luther-King-Platz 6, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany

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© Garidel et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

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* Address correspondence to this author at the Forschungszentrum Borstel, Leibniz-Zentrum für Medizin und Biowissenschaften, Parkallee 1-40, D-23845 Borstel, Germany; Tel: +49-(0)4537-1882350; Fax: +49-(0)4537-1886320; E-mail:


Glycolipids are amphiphilic molecules which bear an oligo- or polysaccharide as hydrophilic head group and hydrocarbon chains in varying numbers and lengths as hydrophobic part. They play an important role in life science as well as in material science. Their biological and physiological functions are quite diverse, ranging from mediators of cell-cell recognition processes, constituents of membrane domains or as membrane-forming units. Glycolipids form an exceptional class of liquid-crystal mesophases due to the fact that their self-organisation obeys more complex rules as compared to classical monophilic liquid-crystals. Like other amphiphiles, the supra-molecular structures formed by glycolipids are driven by their chemical structure; however, the details of this process are still hardly understood. Based on the synthesis of specific glycolipids with a clearly defined chemical structure, e.g., type and length of the sugar head group, acyl chain linkage, substitution pattern, hydrocarbon chain lengths and saturation, combined with a profound physico-chemical characterisation of the formed mesophases, the principles of the organisation in different aggregate structures of the glycolipids can be obtained. The importance of the observed and formed phases and their properties are discussed with respect to their biological and physiological relevance. The presented data describe briefly the strategies used for the synthesis of the used glycolipids. The main focus, however, lies on the thermotropic as well as lyotropic characterisation of the self-organised structures and formed phases based on physico-chemical and biophysical methods linked to their potential biological implications and relevance.

Keywords: Glycolipids, lipopolysaccharides, lyotropism, structural polymorphism, supramolecular structures, thermotropism.