Photopolymerized microdomains in both lipid leaflets establish diffusive transport pathways across biomimetic membranes†
Controlled transport within a network of aqueous subcompartments provides a foundation for the construction of biologically-inspired materials. These materials are commonly assembled using the droplet interface bilayer (DIB) technique, adhering droplets together into a network of lipid membranes. DIB structures may be functionalized to generate conductive pathways by enhancing the permeability of pre-selected membranes, a strategy inspired by nature. Traditionally these pathways are generated by dissolving pore-forming toxins (PFTs) in the aqueous phase. A downside of this approach when working with larger DIB networks is that transport is enabled in all membranes bordering the droplets containing the PFT, instead of occurring exclusively between selected droplets. To rectify this limitation, photopolymerizable phospholipids (23:2 DiynePC) are incorporated within the aqueous phase of the DIB platform, forming conductive pathways in the lipid membranes post-exposure to UV-C light. Notably these pathways are only formed in the membrane if both adhered droplets contain the photo-responsive lipids. Patterned DIB networks can then be generated by controlling the lipid composition within select droplets which creates conductive routes one droplet thick. We propose that the incorporation of photo-polymerizable phospholipids within the aqueous phase of DIB networks will improve the resolution of the patterned conductive pathways and reduce diffusive loss within the synthetic biological network.