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Issue 9, 2012
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Giant vesicles as cell models

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Tremendous progress has been made in recent years in understanding the working of the living cell, including its micro-anatomy, signalling networks, and regulation of genes. However, an understanding of cellular phenomena using fundamental laws starting from first principles is still very far away. Part of the reason is that a cell is an active and exquisitely complex system where every part is linked to the other. Thus, it is difficult or even impossible to design experiments that selectively and exclusively probe a chosen aspect of the cell. Various kinds of idealised systems and cell models have been used to circumvent this problem. An important example is a giant unilamellar vesicle (GUV, also called giant liposome), which provides a cell-sized confined volume to study biochemical reactions as well as self-assembly processes that occur on the membrane. The GUV membrane can be designed suitably to present selected, correctly-oriented cell-membrane proteins, whose mobility is confined to two dimensions. Here, we present recent advances in GUV design and the use of GUVs as cell models that enable quantitative testing leading to insight into the working of real cells. We briefly recapitulate important classical concepts in membrane biophysics emphasising the advantages and limitations of GUVs. We then present results obtained over the last decades using GUVs, choosing the formation of membrane domains and cell adhesion as examples for in-depth treatment. Insight into cell adhesion obtained using micro-interferometry is treated in detail. We conclude by summarising the open questions and possible future directions.

Graphical abstract: Giant vesicles as cell models

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Publication details

The article was received on 21 Dec 2011, accepted on 02 Jul 2012 and first published on 04 Jul 2012

Article type: Review Article
DOI: 10.1039/C2IB00188H
Citation: Integr. Biol., 2012,4, 982-995
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    Giant vesicles as cell models

    S. F. Fenz and K. Sengupta, Integr. Biol., 2012, 4, 982
    DOI: 10.1039/C2IB00188H

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