Styrene maleic acid copolymer induces pores in biomembranes

Soft Matter. 2019 Oct 9;15(39):7934-7944. doi: 10.1039/c9sm01407a.


We investigated the interactions between styrene-maleic acid (SMA) copolymers and phospholipid bilayers, using confocal microscopy and surface acoustic wave resonance (SAR) sensing. For the first time we experimentally observed and followed pore formation by SMA copolymers in intact supported bilayers and unilamellar vesicles, showing that fluorescein, a water-soluble organic compound with a mean diameter of 6.9 Å, can traverse the membrane. Our findings are in agreement with recent theoretical predictions, which suggested that SMA copolymers may insert along the plane of the bilayer to form stable toroidal pores.

MeSH terms

  • Maleates / chemistry*
  • Polystyrenes / chemistry*
  • Porosity
  • Solubility
  • Unilamellar Liposomes / chemistry*


  • Maleates
  • Polystyrenes
  • Unilamellar Liposomes
  • styrofoam
  • maleic acid