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Issue 2, 2018
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Shaping membrane vesicles by adsorption of a semiflexible polymer

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The adsorption of polymers onto fluid membranes is a problem of fundamental interest in biology and soft materials, in part because the flexibility of membranes can lead to nontrivial coupling between polymer and membrane configurations. Here, we use Monte Carlo computer simulations to study the adsorption of a semiflexible polymer onto a fluid membrane vesicle. Polymer adsorption can significantly impact both the vesicle and polymer shapes, and we identify distinct classes of configurations that emerge as a function of polymer persistence length, membrane bending rigidity, adsorption strength, and vesicle size. Large-scale deformations of the vesicle include invaginations of the membrane that internalize the polymer in a membrane bud. The buds range from disk-like shapes surrounding a collapsed polymer to tubular deformations enveloping rod-like polymers. For small vesicles, polymer adsorption also induces dumbbell-like vesicle shapes with a narrow membrane constriction circled by the polymer. Vesicles with sufficiently small or large bending rigidities adopt configurations similar to those without the polymer present. We further characterize statistical properties of the membrane and polymer configurations and identify distinct classes of polymer configurations that emerge within membrane buds. Analysis of idealized polymer–membrane configurations provides additional insight into transitions between bud shapes.

Graphical abstract: Shaping membrane vesicles by adsorption of a semiflexible polymer

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Article information

30 Aug 2017
07 Nov 2017
First published
07 Nov 2017

Soft Matter, 2018,14, 185-193
Article type

Shaping membrane vesicles by adsorption of a semiflexible polymer

B. Li and S. M. Abel, Soft Matter, 2018, 14, 185
DOI: 10.1039/C7SM01751K

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