The dynamic face of lipid membranes
Cell membranes – primarily composed of lipids, sterols, and proteins – form a dynamic interface between living cells and their environment. They act as a mechanical barrier around the cell while selectively facilitating material transport, signal transduction, and various other functions necessary for the cell viability. The complex functionality of cell membranes and the hierarchical motions and responses they exhibit demand a thorough understanding of the origin of different membrane dynamics and how they are influenced by molecular additives and environmental cues. These dynamic modes include single-molecule diffusion, thermal fluctuations, and large-scale membrane deformations, to name a few. This review highlights advances in investigating structure-driven dynamics associated with model cell membranes, with a particular focus on insights gained from neutron scattering and spectroscopy experiments. We discuss the uniqueness of neutron contrast variation and its remarkable potential in probing selective membrane structure and dynamics on spatial and temporal scales over which key biological functions occur. We also present a summary of current and future opportunities in synergistic combinations of neutron scattering with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to gain further understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying complex membrane functions.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2021 Soft Matter Emerging Investigators