Formation and finite element analysis of tethered bilayer lipid structures

Langmuir. 2010 Dec 7;26(23):18199-208. doi: 10.1021/la1021802. Epub 2010 Oct 26.


Rapid solvent exchange of an ethanolic solution of diphytanoyl phosphatidylcholine (DPhyPC) in the presence of a mixed self-assembled monolayer (SAM) [thiolipid/β-mercaptoethanol (βME) (3/7 mol/mol) on Au] shows a transition from densely packed tethered bilayer lipid membranes [(dp)tBLMs], to loosely packed tethered bilayer lipid membranes [(lp)tBLMs], and tethered bilayer liposome nanoparticles (tBLNs) with decreasing DPhyPC concentration. The tethered lipidic constructs in the aqueous medium were analyzed by atomic force microscopy (AFM) and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS). Finite element analysis (FEA) was applied to interpret spectral EIS features without referring to equivalent circuit modeling. Using structural data obtained earlier from neutron reflectometry and dielectric constants of lipid bilayers, we reproduced experimentally observed features of the electrochemical impedance (EI) spectra of complex surface constructs involving small pinhole defects, large membrane-free patches, and bound liposomes. We demonstrated by FEA that highly insulating (dp)tBLMs with low-defect density exhibit EI spectra in the shape of a perfect semicircle with or without low-frequency upward "tails" in the Cole-Cole representation. Such EI spectra were observed at DPhyPC concentrations of >5 × 10(-3) mol L(-1). While AFM was not able to visualize very small lateral defects in such films, EI spectra unambiguously signaled their presence by increased low frequency "tails". Using FEA we demonstrate that films with large diameter visible defects (>25 nm by AFM) produce EI spectral features consisting of two semicircles of comparable size. Such films were typically obtained at DPhyPC concentrations of <5 × 10(-3) mol L(-1). At DPhyPC concentrations of <1.0 × 10(-3) mol L(-1) the planar bilayer structures were replaced by ellipsoidal liposomes with diameters ranging from 50 to 500 nm as observed in AFM images. Despite the distinct surface morphology change, the EI curves exhibited two semicircle spectral features typical for the large size defects in planar tBLMs. FEA revealed that, to account for these EI features for bound liposome systems (50-500 nm diameter), one needs to assume much lower tBLM conductivities of the submembrane space, which separates the electrode surface and the phospholipid bilayer. Alternatively, FEA indicates that such features may also be observed on composite surfaces containing both bound liposomes and patches of planar bilayers. Triple semicircular features, observed in some of the experimental EI curves, were attributed to an increased complexity of the real tBLMs. The modeling demonstrated that such features are typical for heterogeneous tBLM surfaces containing large patches of different defectiveness levels. By integrating AFM, EIS, and FEA data, our work provides diagnostic criteria allowing the precise characterization of the properties and the morphology of surface supported bilayer systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Electrochemistry / methods
  • Electrons
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Liposomes / chemistry
  • Nanotechnology / methods
  • Neutrons
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phosphatidylcholines / chemistry*
  • Phospholipids / chemistry
  • Solvents / chemistry


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Lipids
  • Liposomes
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phospholipids
  • Solvents