Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) increases the solubility of cholesterol when incorporated in lipid membranes
Cholesterol has been well established as a mediator of cell membrane fluidity. By interacting with lipid tails, cholesterol causes the membrane tails to be constrained thereby reducing membrane fluidity, well known as the condensation effect. Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), the main ingredient in aspirin, has recently been shown to increase fluidity in lipid bilayers by primarily interacting with lipid head groups. We used high-resolution X-ray diffraction to study both ASA and cholesterol coexisting in model membranes of dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine (DMPC). While a high cholesterol concentration of 40 mol% cholesterol leads to the formation of immiscible cholesterol bilayers, as was reported previously, increasing the amount of ASA in the membranes between 0 to 12.5 mol% was found to significantly increase the fluidity of the bilayers and dissolve the cholesterol plaques. We, therefore, present experimental evidence for an interaction between cholesterol and ASA on the level of the cell membrane at elevated levels of cholesterol and ASA.