Nanoplasmonically-induced defects in lipid membrane monitored by ion current: transient nanopores versus membrane rupture

Nano Lett. 2014 Aug 13;14(8):4273-9. doi: 10.1021/nl500907k. Epub 2014 Jul 23.


We have developed a nanoplasmonic-based approach to induce nanometer-sized local defects in the phospholipid membranes. Here, gold nanorods and nanoparticles having plasmon resonances in the near-infrared (NIR) spectral range are used as optical absorption centers in the lipid membrane. Defects optically induced by NIR-laser irradiation of gold nanoparticles are continuously monitored by high-precision ion conductance measurement. Localized laser-mediated heating of nanorods and nanoparticle aggregates cause either (a) transient nanopores in lipid membranes or (b) irreversible rupture of the membrane. To monitor transient opening and closing, an electrophysiological setup is assembled wherein a giant liposome is spread over a micrometer hole in a glass slide forming a single bilayer of high Ohmic resistance (so-called gigaseal), while laser light is coupled in and focused on the membrane. The energy associated with the localized heating is discussed and compared with typical elastic parameters in the lipid membranes. The method presented here provides a novel methodology for better understanding of transport across artificial or natural biological membranes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electric Impedance
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Membrane Lipids / chemistry*
  • Membranes, Artificial*
  • Nanotubes / chemistry*


  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Gold