Structure of cholesterol helical ribbons and self-assembling biological springs

Boris Khaykovich, Chintan Hossain, Jennifer J. McManus, Aleksey Lomakin, David E. Moncton, George B. Benedek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


We report the results of x-ray-scattering studies of individual helical ribbons formed in multicomponent solutions of cholesterol solubilized by various surfactants. The solutions were chemically defined lipid concentrate (CDLC) and model bile. In these and many analogous multicomponent surfactant-cholesterol solutions, helical ribbons of two well defined pitch angles, namely 11° and 54°, are formed. We have suggested previously that this remarkable stability results from an underlying crystalline structure of the sterol ribbon strips. Using a synchrotron x-ray source, we have indeed observed Bragg reflections from individual ribbons having 11° pitch angle. We have been able to deduce the parameters of the unit cell. The crystal structure of these ribbons is similar to that of cholesterol monohydrate, with the important difference that the length of the unit cell perpendicular to the cholesterol layers is tripled. We discuss possible origins for this triplication as well as the connection between the crystalline structure and the geometrical form of the helical ribbons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9656-9660
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2007


  • Crystal structure
  • Crystallization
  • Surfactants
  • X-ray diffraction

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