Characterizing the freezing behavior of liposomes as a tool to understand the cryopreservation procedures

Lee Fong Siow, Thomas Rades, Miang Hoong Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Freezing behaviors of egg yolk l-α-phosphatidylcholine (EPC) and 1,2-dipalmitoyl-rac-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) large unilamellar vesicles (LUV) were quantitatively characterized in relation to freezing temperatures, cooling rates, holding time, presence of sodium chloride and phospholipid phase transition temperature. Cooling of the EPC LUV showed an abrupt increase in leakage of the encapsulated carboxyfluorescein (CF) between -5 °C and -10 °C, which corresponded with the temperatures of the extraliposomal ice formation at around -7 °C. For the DPPC LUV, CF leakage started at -10 °C, close to the temperature of the extraliposomal ice formation; followed by a subsequent rapid increase in leakage between -10 °C and -25 °C. Scanning electron microscopy showed that both of these LUV were freeze-concentrated and aggregated at sub-freezing temperatures. We suggest that the formation of the extraliposomal ice and the decrease of the unfrozen fraction causes freeze-injury and leakage of the CF. The degree of leakage, however, differs between EPC LUV and DPPC LUV that inherently vary in their phospholipid phase transition temperatures. With increasing holding time, the EPC LUV were observed to have higher leakage when they were held at -15 °C compared to at -30 °C whilst leakage of the DPPC LUV was higher when holding at -40 °C than at -15 °C and -50 °C. At slow cooling rates, osmotic pressure across the bilayers may cause an additional stress to the EPC LUV. The present work elucidates freeze-injury mechanisms of the phospholipid bilayers through the liposomal model membranes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-221
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggregation
  • Fluid
  • Freeze-concentration
  • Freeze-injury
  • Ice crystals
  • Large unilamellar vesicles
  • Liposomes
  • Phase transition temperature
  • Phospholipid bilayers
  • Unfrozen matrix

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