UV-induced bursting of cell-sized multicomponent lipid vesicles in a photosensitive surfactant solution

J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Mar 14;134(10):4898-904. doi: 10.1021/ja211664f. Epub 2012 Feb 28.


We study the behavior of multicomponent giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) in the presence of AzoTAB, a photosensitive surfactant. GUVs are made of an equimolar ratio of dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) and dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) and various amounts of cholesterol (Chol), where the lipid membrane shows a phase separation into a DPPC-rich liquid-ordered (L(o)) phase and a DOPC-rich liquid-disordered (L(d)) phase. We find that UV illumination at 365 nm for 1 s induces the bursting of a significant fraction of the GUV population. The percentage of UV-induced disrupted vesicles, called bursting rate (Y(burst)), increases with an increase in [AzoTAB] and depends on [Chol] in a non-monotonous manner. Y(burst) decreases when [Chol] increases from 0 to 10 mol % and then increases with a further increase in [Chol], which can be correlated with the phase composition of the membrane. We show that Y(burst) increases with the appearance of solid domains ([Chol] = 0) or with an increase in area fraction of L(o) phase (with increasing [Chol] ≥ 10 mol %). Under our conditions (UV illumination at 365 nm for 1 s), maximal bursting efficiency (Y(burst) = 53%) is obtained for [AzoTAB] = 1 mM and [Chol] = 40 mol %. Finally, by restricting the illumination area, we demonstrate the first selective UV-induced bursting of individual target GUVs. These results show a new method to probe biomembrane mechanical properties using light as well as pave the way for novel strategies of light-induced drug delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Phospholipids / chemistry*
  • Photochemistry*
  • Solutions
  • Surface-Active Agents / chemistry*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Phospholipids
  • Solutions
  • Surface-Active Agents