Stiffness of Fluid and Gel Phase Lipid Nanovesicles: Weighting the Contributions of Membrane Bending Modulus and Luminal Pressurization

A Ridolfi and L Caselli and M Baldoni and C Montis and F Mercuri and D Berti and F Valle and M Brucale, LANGMUIR, 37, 12027-12037 (2021).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.1c01660

The mechanical properties of biogenic membranous compartments are thought to be relevant in numerous biological processes; however, their quantitative measurement remains challenging for most of the already available force spectroscopy (FS)-based techniques. In particular, the debate on the mechanics of lipid nanovesicles and on the interpretation of their mechanical response to an applied force is still open. This is mostly due to the current lack of a unified model being able to describe the mechanical response of both gel and fluid phase lipid vesicles and to disentangle the contributions of membrane rigidity and luminal pressure. In this framework, we herein propose a simple model in which the interplay of membrane rigidity and luminal pressure to the overall vesicle stiffness is described as a series of springs; this approach allows estimating these two contributions for both gel and fluid phase liposomes. Atomic force microscopy-based FS, performed on both vesicles and supported lipid bilayers, is exploited for obtaining all the parameters involved in the model. Moreover, the use of coarse-grained full-scale molecular dynamics simulations allowed for better understanding of the differences in the mechanical responses of gel and fluid phase bilayers and supported the experimental findings. The results suggest that the pressure contribution is similar among all the probed vesicle types; however, it plays a dominant role in the mechanical response of lipid nanovesicles presenting a fluid phase membrane, while its contribution becomes comparable to the one of membrane rigidity in nanovesicles with a gel phase lipid membrane. The results presented herein offer a simple way to quantify two of the most important parameters in vesicle nanomechanics (membrane rigidity and internal pressurization), and as such represent a first step toward a currently unavailable, unified model for the mechanical response of gel and fluid phase lipid nanovesicles.

Return to Publications page