skip to main content

Title: Model Membrane Systems Used to Study Plasma Membrane Lipid Asymmetry
It is well known that the lipid distribution in the bilayer leaflets of mammalian plasma membranes (PMs) is not symmetric. Despite this, model membrane studies have largely relied on chemically symmetric model membranes for the study of lipid–lipid and lipid–protein interactions. This is primarily due to the difficulty in preparing stable, asymmetric model membranes that are amenable to biophysical studies. However, in the last 20 years, efforts have been made in producing more biologically faithful model membranes. Here, we review several recently developed experimental and computational techniques for the robust generation of asymmetric model membranes and highlight a new and particularly promising technique to study membrane asymmetry.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Mycobacterium tuberculosis ( Mtb ) is the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB), a disease that claims ~1.6 million lives annually. The current treatment regime is long and expensive, and missed doses contribute to drug resistance. Therefore, development of new anti-TB drugs remains one of the highest public health priorities. Mtb has evolved a complex cell envelope that represents a formidable barrier to antibiotics. The Mtb cell envelop consists of four distinct layers enriched for Mtb specific lipids and glycans. Although the outer membrane, comprised of mycolic acid esters, has been extensively studied, less is known about the plasma membrane, which also plays a critical role in impacting antibiotic efficacy. The Mtb plasma membrane has a unique lipid composition, with mannosylated phosphatidylinositol lipids (phosphatidyl-myoinositol mannosides, PIMs) comprising more than 50% of the lipids. However, the role of PIMs in the structure and function of the membrane remains elusive. Here, we used multiscale molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to understand the structure-function relationship of the PIM lipid family and decipher how they self-organize to shape the biophysical properties of mycobacterial plasma membranes. We assess both symmetric and asymmetric assemblies of the Mtb plasma membrane and compare this with residue distributions of Mtb integral membrane protein structures. To further validate the model, we tested known anti-TB drugs and demonstrated that our models agree with experimental results. Thus, our work sheds new light on the organization of the mycobacterial plasma membrane. This paves the way for future studies on antibiotic development and understanding Mtb membrane protein function. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Tangential flow filtration is advantageous for bioreactor clarification as the permeate stream could be introduced directly to the subsequent product capture step. However, membrane fouling coupled with high product rejection has limited its use. Here, the performance of a reverse asymmetric hollow fiber membrane where the more open pore structure faces the feed stream and the barrier layer faces the permeate stream has been investigated. The open surface contains pores up to 40 μm in diameter while the tighter barrier layer has an average pore size of 0.4 μm. Filtration of Chinese hamster ovary cell feed streams has been investigated under conditions that could be expected in fed batch operations. The performance of the reverse asymmetric membrane is compared to that of symmetric hollow fiber membranes with nominal pore sizes of 0.2 and 0.65 μm. Laser scanning confocal microscopy was used to observe the locations of particle entrapment. The throughput of the reverse asymmetric membrane is significantly greater than the symmetric membranes. The membrane stabilizes an internal high permeability cake that acts like a depth filter. This stabilized cake can remove particulate matter that would foul the barrier layer if it faced the feed stream. An empirical model has been developed to describe the variation of flux and transmembrane pressure drop during filtration using reverse asymmetric membranes. Our results suggest that using a reverse asymmetric membrane could avoid severe flux decline associated with fouling of the barrier layer during bioreactor clarification.

    more » « less
  3. Membrane undulations play a vital role in many biological processes, including the regulation of membrane protein activity. The asymmetric lipid composition of most biological membranes complicates theoretical description of these bending fluctuations, yet experimental data that would inform any such a theory is scarce. Here, we used neutron spin-echo (NSE) spectroscopy to measure the bending fluctuations of large unilamellar vesicles (LUV) having an asymmetric transbilayer distribution of high- and low-melting lipids. The asymmetric vesicles were prepared using cyclodextrin-mediated lipid exchange, and were composed of an outer leaflet enriched in egg sphingomyelin (ESM) and an inner leaflet enriched in 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-phosphoethanolamine (POPE), which have main transition temperatures of 37 °C and 25 °C, respectively. The overall membrane bending rigidity was measured at three temperatures: 15 °C, where both lipids are in a gel state; 45 °C, where both lipids are in a fluid state; and 30 °C, where there is gel-fluid co-existence. Remarkably, the dynamics for the fluid asymmetric LUVs (aLUVs) at 30 °C and 45 °C do not follow trends predicted by their symmetric counterparts. At 30 °C, compositional asymmetry suppressed the bending fluctuations, with the asymmetric bilayer exhibiting a larger bending modulus than that of symmetric bilayers corresponding to either the outer or inner leaflet. We conclude that the compositional asymmetry and leaflet coupling influence the internal dissipation within the bilayer and result in membrane properties that cannot be directly predicted from corresponding symmetric bilayers. 
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)

    Synthetic lipid membranes are self-assembled biomolecular double layers designed to approximate the properties of living cell membranes. These membranes are employed as model systems for studying the interactions of cellular envelopes with the surrounding environment in a controlled platform. They are constructed by dispersing amphiphilic lipids into a combination of immiscible fluids enabling the biomolecules to self-assemble into ordered sheets, or monolayers at the oil-water interface. The adhesion of two opposing monolayer sheets forms the membrane, or the double layer. The mechanical properties of these synthetic membranes often differ from biological ones mainly due to the presence of residual solvent in between the leaflets. In fact, the double layer compresses in response to externally applied electrical field with an intensity that varies depending on the solvent present. While typically viewed as a drawback associated with their assembly, in this work the elasticity of the double layer is utilized to further quantify complex biophysical phenomena. The adsorption of charged molecules on the surface of a lipid bilayer is a key property to decipher biomolecule interactions at the interface of the cell membrane, as well as to develop effective antimicrobial peptides and similar membrane-active molecules. This adsorption generates a difference in the boundary potentials on either side of the membrane which may be tracked through electrophysiology. The soft synthetic membranes produced in the laboratory compress when exposed to an electric field. Tracking the minimum membrane capacitance allows for quantifying when the intrinsic electric field produced by the asymmetry is properly compensated by the supplied transmembrane voltage. The technique adopted in this work is the intramembrane field compensation (IFC). This technique focuses on the current generated by the bilayer in response to a sinusoidal voltage with a DC component, VDC. Briefly, the output sinusoidal current is divided into its harmonics and the second harmonic equals zero when VDC compensates the internal electric field. In this work, we apply the IFC technique to droplet interface bilayers (DIB) enabling the development of a biological sensor. A certain membrane elasticity is needed for accurate measurements and is tuned through the solvent selection. The asymmetric DIBs are formed, and an automated PID-controlled IFC design is implemented to rapidly track and compensate the membrane asymmetry. The closed loop system continuously reads the current and generates the corresponding voltage until the second harmonic is abated. This research describes the development and optimization of a biological sensor and examines how varying the structure of the synthetic membrane influences its capabilities for detecting membrane-environment interactions. This platform may be applied towards studying the interactions of membrane-active molecules and developing models for the associated phenomena to enhance their design.

    more » « less
  5. The compositional asymmetry of biological membranes has attracted significant attention over the last decade. Harboring more differences from symmetric membranes than previously appreciated, asymmetric bilayers have proven quite challenging to study with familiar concepts and techniques, leaving many unanswered questions about the reach of the asymmetry effects. One particular area of active research is the computational investigation of composition- and number-asymmetric lipid bilayers with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Offering a high level of detail into the organization and properties of the simulated systems, MD has emerged as an indispensable tool in the study of membrane asymmetry. However, the realization that results depend heavily on the protocol used for constructing the asymmetric bilayer models has sparked an ongoing debate about how to choose the most appropriate approach. Here we discuss the underlying source of the discrepant results and review the existing methods for creating asymmetric bilayers for MD simulations. Considering the available data, we argue that each method is well suited for specific applications and hence there is no single best approach. Instead, the choice of a construction protocol—and consequently, its perceived accuracy—must be based primarily on the scientific question that the simulations are designed to address.

    more » « less