The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin induces heterogeneity in lipid membranes: potential implication for its diverse biological action

Publication Date



PLoS One


BACKGROUND: The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), indomethacin (Indo), has a large number of divergent biological effects, the molecular mechanism(s) for which have yet to be fully elucidated. Interestingly, Indo is highly amphiphilic and associates strongly with lipid membranes, which influence localization, structure and function of membrane-associating proteins and actively regulate cell signaling events. Thus, it is possible that Indo regulates diverse cell functions by altering micro-environments within the membrane. Here we explored the effect of Indo on the nature of the segregated domains in a mixed model membrane composed of dipalmitoyl phosphatidyl-choline (di16:0 PC, or DPPC) and dioleoyl phosphatidyl-choline (di18:1 PC or DOPC) and cholesterol that mimics biomembranes.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Using a series of fluorescent probes in a fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) study, we found that Indo induced separation between gel domains and fluid domains in the mixed model membrane, possibly by enhancing the formation of gel-phase domains. This effect originated from the ability of Indo to specifically target the ordered domains in the mixed membrane. These findings were further confirmed by measuring the ability of Indo to affect the fluidity-dependent fluorescence quenching and the level of detergent resistance of membranes.

CONCLUSION/SIGNIFICANCE: Because the tested lipids are the main lipid constituents in cell membranes, the observed formation of gel phase domains induced by Indo potentially occurs in biomembranes. This marked Indo-induced change in phase behavior potentially alters membrane protein functions, which contribute to the wide variety of biological activities of Indo and other NSAIDs.


Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal, Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Indomethacin, Liposomes, Membrane Lipids