Nanomechanical Properties of Artificial Lipid Bilayers Composed of Fluid and Polymerizable Lipids

N. Malithi Fonseka, Fernando Teran Arce, Hamish S. Christie, Craig A Aspinwall, S. Scott Saavedra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Polymerization enhances the stability of a planar supported lipid bilayer (PSLB) but it also changes its chemical and mechanical properties, attenuates lipid diffusion, and may affect the activity of integral membrane proteins. Mixed bilayers composed of fluid lipids and poly(lipids) may provide an appropriate combination of polymeric stability coupled with the fluidity and elasticity needed to maintain the bioactivity of reconstituted receptors. Previously (Langmuir, 2019, 35, 12483-12491) we showed that binary mixtures of the polymerizable lipid bis-SorbPC and the fluid lipid DPhPC form phase-segregated PSLBs composed of nanoscale fluid and poly(lipid) domains. Here we used atomic force microscopy (AFM) to compare the nanoscale mechanical properties of these binary PSLBs with single-component PSLBs. The elastic (Young's) modulus, area compressibility modulus, and bending modulus of bis-SorbPC PSLBs increased upon polymerization. Before polymerization, breakthrough events at forces below 5 nN were observed, but after polymerization, the AFM tip could not penetrate the PSLB up to an applied force of 20 nN. These results are attributed to the polymeric network in poly(bis-SorbPC), which increases the bilayer stiffness and resists compression and bending. In binary DPhPC/poly(bis-SorbPC) PSLBs, the DPhPC domains are less stiff, more compressible, and are less resistant to rupture and bending compared to pure DPhPC bilayers. These differences are attributed to bis-SorbPC monomers and oligomers present in DPhPC domains that disrupt the packing of DPhPC molecules. In contrast, the poly(bis-SorbPC) domains are stiffer and less compressible relative to pure PSLBs; this difference is attributed to DPhPC filling the nm-scale pores in the polymerized domains that are created during bis-SorbPC polymerization. Thus, incomplete phase segregation increases the stability of poly(bis-SorbPC) but has the opposite, detrimental effect for DPhPC. Overall, these results provide guidance for the design of partially polymerized bilayers for technological uses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-111
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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