Membrane elasticity in giant vesicles with fluid phase coexistence

Biophys J. 2005 Aug;89(2):1067-80. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.104.049692. Epub 2005 May 13.


Biological membranes are known to contain compositional heterogeneities, often termed rafts, with distinguishable composition and function, and these heterogeneities participate in vigorous transport processes. Membrane lipid phase coexistence is expected to modulate these processes through the differing mechanical properties of the bulk domains and line tension at phase boundaries. In this contribution, we compare the predictions from a shape theory derived for vesicles with fluid phase coexistence to the geometry of giant unilamellar vesicles with coexisting liquid-disordered (L(d)) and liquid-ordered (L(o)) phases. We find a bending modulus for the L(o) phase higher than that of the L(d) phase and a saddle-splay (Gauss) modulus difference with the Gauss modulus of the L(o) phase being more negative than the L(d) phase. The Gauss modulus critically influences membrane processes that change topology, such as vesicle fission or fusion, and could therefore be of significant biological relevance in heterogeneous membranes. Our observations of experimental vesicle geometries being modulated by Gaussian curvature moduli differences confirm the prediction by the theory of Juelicher and Lipowsky.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena / methods
  • Computer Simulation
  • Elasticity
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Liposomes / chemistry*
  • Membrane Fluidity*
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Microfluidics / methods*
  • Microspheres
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Motion
  • Particle Size
  • Phase Transition
  • Pressure
  • Shear Strength
  • Solutions
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Surface Tension


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Liposomes
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Solutions