Advances in Biological Liquid Crystals

Small. 2019 May;15(18):e1900019. doi: 10.1002/smll.201900019. Epub 2019 Mar 20.


Biological liquid crystals, a rich set of soft materials with rod-like structures widely existing in nature, possess typical lyotropic liquid crystalline phase properties both in vitro (e.g., cellulose, peptides, and protein assemblies) and in vivo (e.g., cellular lipid membrane, packed DNA in bacteria, and aligned fibroblasts). Given the ability to undergo phase transition in response to various stimuli, numerous practices are exercised to spatially arrange biological liquid crystals. Here, a fundamental understanding of interactions between rod-shaped biological building blocks and their orientational ordering across multiple length scales is addressed. Discussions are made with regard to the dependence of physical properties of nonmotile objects on the first-order phase transition and the coexistence of multi-phases in passive liquid crystalline systems. This work also focuses on how the applied physical stimuli drives the reorganization of constituent passive particles for a new steady-state alignment. A number of recent progresses in the dynamics behaviors of active liquid crystals are presented, and particular attention is given to those self-propelled animate elements, like the formation of motile topological defects, active turbulence, correlation of orientational ordering, and cellular functions. Finally, future implications and potential applications of the biological liquid crystalline materials are discussed.

Keywords: active liquid crystals; biological soft matter; phase transition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Physiological Phenomena
  • Liquid Crystals*
  • Phase Transition
  • Static Electricity