Publications associated with Biological Physics

Multifrequency AFM reveals lipid membrane mechanical properties and the effect of cholesterol in modulating viscoelasticity

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Sciences 115 (2018) 2658-2663

Z Al Rekabi, S Contera

<p>The physical properties of lipid bilayers comprising the cell membrane occupy the current spotlight of membrane biology. Their traditional representation as a passive 2D fluid has gradually been abandoned in favor of a more complex picture: an anisotropic time-dependent viscoelastic biphasic material, capable of transmitting or attenuating mechanical forces that regulate biological processes. In establishing new models, quantitative experiments are necessary when attempting to develop suitable techniques for dynamic measurements. Here, we map both the elastic and viscous properties of the model system 1,2-dipalmitoyl-<em>sn</em>-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) lipid bilayers using multifrequency atomic force microscopy (AFM), namely amplitude modulation–frequency modulation (AM–FM) AFM imaging in an aqueous environment. Furthermore, we investigate the effect of cholesterol (Chol) on the DPPC bilayer in concentrations from 0 to 60%. The AM–AFM quantitative maps demonstrate that at low Chol concentrations, the lipid bilayer displays a distinct phase separation and is elastic, whereas at higher Chol concentration, the bilayer appears homogenous and exhibits both elastic and viscous properties. At low-Chol contents, the <em>E</em><sub>storage</sub> modulus (elastic) dominates. As the Chol insertions increases, higher energy is dissipated; and although the bilayer stiffens (increase in <em>E</em><sub>storage</sub>), the viscous component dominates (<em>E</em><sub>loss</sub>). Our results provide evidence that the lipid bilayer exhibits both elastic and viscous properties that are modulated by the presence of Chol, which may affect the propagation (elastic) or attenuation (viscous) of mechanical signals across the cell membrane.</p>

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