- Photoactivable phospholipids containing either alpha-diazo-beta-trifluoropropionyloxy or m-diazirinophenoxyl groups in the omega-positions of sn-2 fatty acyl chains were synthesized and incorporated into sonicated vesicles containing 33 mol% of cholesterol. Photolysis of the vesicles at 350 nm produced covalent cross-links between the synthetic phospholipids and cholesterol. The cross-linked products obtained using [14C]cholesterol were characterized by their chromatographic behavior, cleavage on phospholipase A2 treatment, base-catalyzed transesterification and mass spectral measurements. The cross-linking was shown not to involve the 3-beta-hydroxyl group of cholesterol, and it was concluded that the reactive carbene intermediates formed from the photolabels inserted into the hydrocarbon skeleton of cholesterol in the bilayer. The extent of cross-linking obtained was comparable to that observed previously using phospholipids alone, indicating that no lateral phase separation occurred. The present approach is promising for further precise studies of the molecular interactions between cholesterol and phospholipids in biological membranes.