Mechanism of membrane tube formation induced by adhesive nanocomponents

Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Nov 2;109(18):188101. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.188101. Epub 2012 Oct 31.


We report numerical simulations of membrane tubulation driven by large colloidal particles. Using Monte Carlo simulations we study how the process depends on particle size and binding strength, and present accurate free energy calculations to sort out how tube formation compares with the competing budding process. We find that tube formation is a result of the collective behavior of the particles adhering on the surface, and it occurs for binding strengths that are smaller than those required for budding. We also find that long linear aggregates of particles forming on the membrane surface act as nucleation seeds for tubulation by lowering the free energy barrier associated to the process.

MeSH terms

  • Adhesives / chemistry*
  • Colloids / chemistry*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Membranes / chemistry*
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Thermodynamics


  • Adhesives
  • Colloids