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Issue 7, 2021
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Imaging non-classical mechanical responses of lipid membranes using molecular rotors

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Abstract

Lipid packing in cellular membranes has a direct effect on membrane tension and microviscosity, and plays a central role in cellular adaptation, homeostasis and disease. According to conventional mechanical descriptions, viscosity and tension are directly interconnected, with increased tension leading to decreased membrane microviscosity. However, the intricate molecular interactions that combine to build the structure and function of a cell membrane suggest a more complex relationship between these parameters. In this work, a viscosity-sensitive fluorophore (‘molecular rotor’) is used to map changes in microviscosity in model membranes under conditions of osmotic stress. Our results suggest that the relationship between membrane tension and microviscosity is strongly influenced by the bilayer's lipid composition. In particular, we show that the effects of increasing tension are minimised for membranes that exhibit liquid disordered (Ld) – liquid ordered (Lo) phase coexistence; while, surprisingly, membranes in pure gel and Lo phases exhibit a negative compressibility behaviour, i.e. they soften upon compression.

Graphical abstract: Imaging non-classical mechanical responses of lipid membranes using molecular rotors

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Supplementary files

Article information


Submitted
23 Oct 2020
Accepted
22 Dec 2020
First published
22 Dec 2020

This article is Open Access
All publication charges for this article have been paid for by the Royal Society of Chemistry

Chem. Sci., 2021,12, 2604-2613
Article type
Edge Article

Imaging non-classical mechanical responses of lipid membranes using molecular rotors

M. Páez-Pérez, I. López-Duarte, A. Vyšniauskas, N. J. Brooks and M. K. Kuimova, Chem. Sci., 2021, 12, 2604
DOI: 10.1039/D0SC05874B

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