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  1. The elastic and viscous properties of biological membranes play a vital role in controlling cell functions that require local reorganization of the membrane components as well as dramatic shape changes such as endocytosis, vesicular trafficking, and cell division. These properties are widely acknowledged to depend on the unique composition of lipids within the membrane, yet the effects of lipid mixing on the membrane biophysical properties remain poorly understood. Here, we present a comprehensive characterization of the structural, elastic, and viscous properties of fluid membranes composed of binary mixtures of lipids with different tail lengths. We show that the mixed lipid membrane properties are not simply additive quantities of the single-component analogs. Instead, the mixed membranes are more dynamic than either of their constituents, quantified as a decrease in their bending modulus, area compressibility modulus, and viscosity. While the enhanced dynamics are seemingly unexpected, we show that the measured moduli and viscosity for both the mixed and single-component bilayers all scale with the area per lipid and collapse onto respective master curves. This scaling links the increase in dynamics to mixing-induced changes in the lipid packing and membrane structure. More importantly, the results show that the membrane properties can be manipulatedmore »through lipid composition the same way bimodal blends of surfactants, liquid crystals, and polymers are used to engineer the mechanical properties of soft materials, with broad implications for understanding how lipid diversity relates to biomembrane function.

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  2. The structure and dynamics of lipid membranes in the presence of extracellular macromolecules are critical for cell membrane functions and many pharmaceutical applications. The pathogen virulence-suppressing end-phosphorylated polyethylene glycol (PEG) triblock copolymer ( Pi-ABAPEG ) markedly changes the interactions with lipid vesicle membranes and prevents PEG-induced vesicle phase separation in contrast to the unphosphorylated copolymer ( ABAPEG ). Pi-ABAPEG weakly absorbs on the surface of lipid vesicle membranes and slightly changes the structure of 1,2-dimyristoyl- sn-glycero -3-phosphocholine ( DMPC ) unilamellar vesicles at 37 °C, as evidenced by small angle neutron scattering. X-ray reflectivity measurements confirm the weak adsorption of Pi-ABAPEG on DMPC monolayer, resulting in a more compact DMPC monolayer structure. Neutron spin-echo results show that the adsorption of Pi-ABAPEG on DMPC vesicle membranes increases the membrane bending modulus κ .
  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 eithermore »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.« less
  4. Cholesterol is an integral component of eukaryotic cell membranes and a key molecule in controlling membrane fluidity, organization, and other physicochemical parameters. It also plays a regulatory function in antibiotic drug resistance and the immune response of cells against viruses, by stabilizing the membrane against structural damage. While it is well understood that, structurally, cholesterol exhibits a densification effect on fluid lipid membranes, its effects on membrane bending rigidity are assumed to be nonuniversal; i.e., cholesterol stiffens saturated lipid membranes, but has no stiffening effect on membranes populated by unsaturated lipids, such as 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC). This observation presents a clear challenge to structure–property relationships and to our understanding of cholesterol-mediated biological functions. Here, using a comprehensive approach—combining neutron spin-echo (NSE) spectroscopy, solid-state deuterium NMR (2H NMR) spectroscopy, and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations—we report that cholesterol locally increases the bending rigidity of DOPC membranes, similar to saturated membranes, by increasing the bilayer’s packing density. All three techniques, inherently sensitive to mesoscale bending fluctuations, show up to a threefold increase in effective bending rigidity with increasing cholesterol content approaching a mole fraction of 50%. Our observations are in good agreement with the known effects of cholesterol on the area-compressibility modulus and membranemore »structure, reaffirming membrane structure–property relationships. The current findings point to a scale-dependent manifestation of membrane properties, highlighting the need to reassess cholesterol’s role in controlling membrane bending rigidity over mesoscopic length and time scales of important biological functions, such as viral budding and lipid–protein interactions.

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