When zeaxanthin ([3R,3R']-beta, beta-carotene-3,3'diol) is inserted into phospholipid dispersions and the latter heated through their gel-liquid crystal phase transitions, large changes are noted in the resonance Raman and absorption spectra of the carotenoid molecule. By analogy with the data of Carey and co-workers (J. Raman Spectrosc. 6:282) who studied the aggregation of zeaxanthin in acetone-water solutions, it is suggested that the carotenoid aggregates in the phospholipid gel state while forming a monomer in liquid crystal phases. The alterations in both the visible absorption and resonance Raman data have been used to monitor phospholipid phase behavior in dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine and distearoylphosphatidylcholine, (DSPC) one-component systems and binary mixtures. The phase diagram obtained for the binary system, as constructed from visible absorption and resonance Raman data, is compared with that of Shimshick and McConnell (Biochemistry. 12:2351) obtained from electron spin resonance (ESR) studies. Although the agreement between absorption and ESR data is generally satisfactory, onset temperatures for phase separation at low DSPC mole fractions deduced from resonance Raman measurements are several degrees lower than those from the other methods. Nevertheless, the use of zeaxanthin as a resonance Raman and visible absorption probe behavior will be useful in some situations where ordinary Raman spectroscopic data cannot be obtained easily. The advantage of the resonance Raman approach is illustrated in a study of the phase behavior of a phospholipid extract of a cel- mutant of Neurospora crassa. A phase separation region is observed with onset and completion temperatures of -19 and -6 degrees C, respectively
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