Publication: Dissipative dynamics of fluid lipid membranes enriched in cholesterol
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Cholesterol is an intriguing component of fluid lipid membranes: It makes them stiffer but also more fluid. Despite the enormous biological significance of this complex dynamical behavior, which blends aspects of membrane elasticity with viscous friction, their mechanical bases remain however poorly understood. Here, we show that the incorporation of physiologically relevant contents of cholesterol in model fluid membranes produces a fourfold increase in the membrane bending modulus. However, the increase in the compression rigidity that we measure is only twofold; this indicates that cholesterol increases coupling between the two membrane leaflets. In addition, we show that although cholesterol makes each membrane leaflet more fluid, it increases the friction between the membrane leaflets. This dissipative dynamics causes opposite but advantageous effects over different membrane motions: It allows the membrane to rearrange quickly in the lateral dimension, and to simultaneously dissipate out-of-plane stresses through friction between the two membrane leaflets. Moreover, our results provide a clear correlation between coupling and friction of membrane leaflets. Furthermore, we show that these rigid membranes are optimal to resist slow deformations with minimum energy dissipation; their optimized stability might be exploited to design soft technological microsystems with an encoded mechanics, vesicles or capsules for instance, useful beyond classical applications as model biophysical systems.
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (ERC grant agreement n° 338133)