In cell mechanics, distinguishing the respective roles of the plasma membrane and of the cytoskeleton is a challenge. The difference in the behavior of cellular and pure lipid membranes is usually attributed to the presence of the cytoskeleton as explored by membrane nanotube extrusion. Here we revisit this prevalent picture by unveiling unexpected force responses of plasma membrane spheres devoid of cytoskeleton and synthetic liposomes. We show that a tiny variation in the content of synthetic membranes does not affect their static mechanical properties, but is enough to reproduce the dynamic behavior of their cellular counterparts. This effect is attributed to an amplified intramembrane friction. Reconstituted actin cortices inside liposomes induce an additional, but not dominant, contribution to the effective membrane friction. Our work underlines the necessity of a careful consideration of the role of membrane proteins on cell membrane rheology in addition to the role of the cytoskeleton.
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