Mechanical Properties of Nanoscopic Lipid Domains
by Jonathan D. Nickels, et al.
The lipid raft hypothesis presents insights into how the cell membrane organizes proteins and lipids to accomplish its many vital functions. Yet basic questions remain about the physical mechanisms that lead to the formation, stability, and size of lipid rafts. As a result, much interest has been generated in the study of systems that contain similar lateral heterogeneities, or domains. In the current work we present an experimental approach that is capable of isolating the bending moduli of lipid domains. This is accomplished using neutron scattering and its unique sensitivity to the isotopes of hydrogen. Combining contrast matching approaches with inelastic neutron scattering, we isolate the bending modulus of ∼13 nm diameter domains residing in 60 nm unilamellar vesicles, whose lipid composition mimics the mammalian plasma membrane outer leaflet. Importantly, the bending modulus of the nanoscopic domains differs from the modulus of the continuous phase surrounding them. From additional structural measurements and all-atom simulations, we also determine that nanoscopic domains are in-register across the bilayer leaflets. Taken together, these results inform a number of theoretical models of domain/raft formation and highlight the fact that mismatches in bending modulus must be accounted for when explaining the emergence of lateral heterogeneities in lipid systems and biological membranes.