Dynamic domain formation in membranes: Thickness-modulation-induced phase separation
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Pfotenhauerstraße 108, D-01307, Dresden, Germany
2 Max-Planck-Institut für Physik komplexer Systeme, Nöthnitzer Straße 38, D-01187, Dresden, Germany
* e-mail: Erik.Schaeffer@mpi-cbg.de
A simple model investigates the amplification of fluctuations on membranes constituted of two lipids having different lengths. Van der Waals and electrostatic interactions across the lipid bilayer result in a destabilization favoring thickness variations of the membrane. Close to spontaneous demixing of the two components, the additional gain in free energy due to thickness undulations shifts the stability boundary which promotes phase separation into domains. Interestingly, this effect can be induced by an applied electric field or membrane potential. In biological systems, the dynamic model presented here indicates that electric fields might be important for controlling phase separation and the formation of domains called “rafts”.
© EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica, and Springer-Verlag, 2004