Phase transitions in supported lipid bilayers studied by AFM
We review the capabilities of Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) in the study of phase transitions in Supported Lipid Bilayers (SLBs). AFM represents a powerful technique to cover the resolution range not available to fluorescence imaging techniques and where spectroscopic data suggest what the relevant lateral scale for domain formation might be. Phase transitions of lipid bilayers involve the formation of domains characterized by different heights with respect to the surrounding phase and are therefore easily identified by AFM in liquid solution once the bilayer is confined to a flat surface. Even if not endowed with high time resolution, AFM allows light to be shed on some aspects related to lipid phase transitions in the case of both a single lipid component and lipid mixtures containing sterols also. We discuss here the obtained results in light of the peculiarities of supported lipid bilayer model systems.