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by Keyword: Membranes

Avalos-Padilla Y, Georgiev VN, Ewins E, Robinson T, Orozco E, Lipowsky R, Dimova R, (2023). Stepwise remodeling and subcompartment formation in individual vesicles by three ESCRT-III proteins Iscience 26, 105765

The endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) is a multi-protein machinery involved in several membrane remodeling processes. Different approaches have been used to resolve how ESCRT proteins scission membranes. However, the underlying mechanisms generating membrane deformations are still a matter of debate. Here, giant unilamellar vesicles, microfluidic technology, and micropipette aspiration are combined to continuously follow the ESCRT-III-mediated membrane remodeling on the single-vesicle level for the first time. With this approach, we identify different mechanisms by which a minimal set of three ESCRT-III proteins from Entamoeba histolytica reshape the membrane. These proteins modulate the membrane stiffness and spontaneous curvature to regulate bud size and generate intraluminal vesicles even in the absence of ATP. We demonstrate that the bud stability depends on the protein concentration and membrane tension. The approaches introduced here should open the road to diverse applications in synthetic biology for establishing artificial cells with several membrane compartments.© 2022 The Author(s).

JTD Keywords: Biophysics, Biotechnology, Cell biology, Membranes


Joseph A, Wagner AM, Garay-Sarmiento M, Aleksanyan M, Haraszti T, Söder D, Georgiev VN, Dimova R, Percec V, Rodriguez-Emmenegger C, (2022). Zwitterionic Dendrimersomes: A Closer Xenobiotic Mimic of Cell Membranes Advanced Materials 34, 2206288

Building functional mimics of cell membranes is an important task toward the development of synthetic cells. So far, lipid and amphiphilic block copolymers are the most widely used amphiphiles with the bilayers by the former lacking stability while membranes by the latter are typically characterized by very slow dynamics. Herein, we introduce a new type of Janus dendrimer containing a zwitterionic phosphocholine hydrophilic headgroup (JDPC ) and a 3,5-substituted dihydrobenzoate-based hydrophobic dendron. JDPC self-assembles in water into zwitterionic dendrimersomes (z-DSs) that faithfully recapitulate the cell membrane in thickness, flexibility, and fluidity, while being resilient to harsh conditions and displaying faster pore closing dynamics in the event of membrane rupture. This enables the fabrication of hybrid DSs with components of natural membranes, including pore-forming peptides, structure-directing lipids, and glycans to create raft-like domains or onion vesicles. Moreover, z-DSs can be used to create active synthetic cells with life-like features that mimic vesicle fusion and motility as well as environmental sensing. Despite their fully synthetic nature, z-DSs are minimal cell mimics that can integrate and interact with living matter with the programmability to imitate life-like features and beyond. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: biological-membranes, bottom-up synthetic biology, chain, hybrid vesicles, hydroethidine, organization, polymersome, proteins, stability, synthetic cells, thickness, vesicle fusion, vesicle motility, vesicles, zwitterionic dendrimersomes, Biosensor, Biosensors, Bottom-up synthetic biology, Hybrid vesicles, Lipid-bilayers, Synthetic cells, Vesicle fusion, Vesicle motility, Zwitterionic dendrimersomes


Ferrer, I, Andres-Benito, P, Ausin, K, Cartas-Cejudo, P, Lachen-Montes, M, del Rio, JA, Fernandez-Irigoyen, J, Santamaria, E, (2022). Dysregulated Protein Phosphorylation in a Mouse Model of FTLD-Tau Journal Of Neuropathology And Experimental Neurology 81, 696-706

The neocortex of P301S mice, used as a model of fronto-temporal lobar degeneration linked to tau mutation (FTLD-tau), and wild-type mice, both aged 9 months, were analyzed with conventional label-free phosphoproteomics and SWATH-MS (sequential window acquisition of all theoretical fragment ion spectra mass spectrometry) to assess the (phospho)proteomes. The total number of identified dysregulated phosphoproteins was 328 corresponding to 524 phosphorylation sites. The majority of dysregulated phosphoproteins, most of them hyperphosphorylated, were proteins of the membranes, synapses, membrane trafficking, membrane vesicles linked to endo- and exocytosis, cytoplasmic vesicles, and cytoskeleton. Another group was composed of kinases. In contrast, proteins linked to DNA, RNA metabolism, RNA splicing, and protein synthesis were hypophosphorylated. Other pathways modulating energy metabolism, cell signaling, Golgi apparatus, carbohydrates, and lipids are also targets of dysregulated protein phosphorylation in P301S mice. The present results, together with accompanying immunohistochemical and Western-blotting studies, show widespread abnormal phosphorylation of proteins, in addition to protein tau, in P301S mice. These observations point to dysregulated protein phosphorylation as a relevant contributory pathogenic component of tauopathies.

JTD Keywords: (phospho)proteomics, Cytoskeleton, Kinases, Membranes, Networks, Oxidative stress, Pathology, Phosphoproteome analysis, Tau, Tauopathy


Wagner, AM, Eto, H, Joseph, A, Kohyama, S, Haraszti, T, Zamora, RA, Vorobii, M, Giannotti, MI, Schwille, P, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, (2022). Dendrimersome Synthetic Cells Harbor Cell Division Machinery of Bacteria Advanced Materials 34, 2202364

The integration of active cell machinery with synthetic building blocks is the bridge toward developing synthetic cells with biological functions and beyond. Self-replication is one of the most important tasks of living systems, and various complex machineries exist to execute it. In Escherichia coli, a contractile division ring is positioned to mid-cell by concentration oscillations of self-organizing proteins (MinCDE), where it severs membrane and cell wall. So far, the reconstitution of any cell division machinery has exclusively been tied to liposomes. Here, the reconstitution of a rudimentary bacterial divisome in fully synthetic bicomponent dendrimersomes is shown. By tuning the membrane composition, the interaction of biological machinery with synthetic membranes can be tailored to reproduce its dynamic behavior. This constitutes an important breakthrough in the assembly of synthetic cells with biological elements, as tuning of membrane-divisome interactions is the key to engineering emergent biological behavior from the bottom-up.

JTD Keywords: Bacterial cell division, Bottom-up synthetic biology, Dendrimersomes, Dynamic min patterns, Dynamics, Ftsz assembly, Ftsz filaments, Mind, Organization, Pole oscillation, Polymersome membranes, Proteins, Rapid pole, Synthetic cells, Vesicles


Woythe L, Madhikar P, Feiner-Gracia N, Storm C, Albertazzi L, (2022). A Single-Molecule View at Nanoparticle Targeting Selectivity: Correlating Ligand Functionality and Cell Receptor Density Acs Nano 16, 3785-3796

Antibody-functionalized nanoparticles (NPs) are commonly used to increase the targeting selectivity toward cells of interest. At a molecular level, the number of functional antibodies on the NP surface and the density of receptors on the target cell determine the targeting interaction. To rationally develop selective NPs, the single-molecule quantitation of both parameters is highly desirable. However, techniques able to count molecules with a nanometric resolution are scarce. Here, we developed a labeling approach to quantify the number of functional cetuximabs conjugated to NPs and the expression of epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFRs) in breast cancer cells using direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (dSTORM). The single-molecule resolution of dSTORM allows quantifying molecules at the nanoscale, giving a detailed insight into the distributions of individual NP ligands and cell receptors. Additionally, we predicted the fraction of accessible antibody-conjugated NPs using a geometrical model, showing that the total number exceeds the accessible number of antibodies. Finally, we correlated the NP functionality, cell receptor density, and NP uptake to identify the highest cell uptake selectivity regimes. We conclude that single-molecule functionality mapping using dSTORM provides a molecular understanding of NP targeting, aiding the rational design of selective nanomedicines.

JTD Keywords: active targeting, active targeting dstorm, antibodies, dstorm, heterogeneity, multivalency, nanomedicine, nanoparticle functionality, size, super-resolution microscopy, surface, Active targeting, Antibodies, Cell membranes, Cell receptors, Cytology, Direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy, Dstorm, Heterogeneity, Ligands, Medical nanotechnology, Molecules, Nanomedicine, Nanoparticle functionality, Nanoparticle targeting, Nanoparticles, Optical reconstruction, Single molecule, Stochastic systems, Stochastics, Super-resolution microscopy, Superresolution microscopy


García-Torres, Jose, Lázaro, Carmen, Sylla, Dioulde, Lanzalaco, Sonia, Ginebra, Maria-Pau, Alemán, Carlos, (2022). Combining 2D organic and 1D inorganic nanoblocks to develop free-standing hybrid nanomembranes for conformable biosensors Journal Of Nanostructure In Chemistry ,

We report a simple approach to fabricate free-standing perforated 2D nanomembranes hosting well-ordered 1D metallic nanostructures to obtain hybrid materials with nanostructured surfaces for flexible electronics. Nanomembranes are formed by alternatively depositing perforated poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) layers. Copper metallic nanowires (NWs) were incorporated into the nanoperforations of the top PLA layer by electrodeposition and further coated with silver via a transmetallation reaction. The combination of 2D polymeric nanomembranes and aligned 1D metallic NWs allows merging the flexibility and conformability of the ultrathin soft polymeric nanomembranes with the good electrical properties of metals for biointegrated electronic devices. Thus, we were able to tailor the nanomembrane surface chemistry as it was corroborated by SEM, EDX, XPS, CV, EIS and contact angle. The obtained hybrid nanomembranes were flexible and conformable showing sensing capacity towards H2O2 with good linear concentration range (0.35–10 mM), sensitivity (120 µA cm?2 mM?1) and limit of detection (7 ?m). Moreover, the membranes showed good stability, reproducibility and selectivity towards H2O2.

JTD Keywords: biointegrated sensors, designs, electronics, fabrication, free-standing films, h2o2, metallic nanowires, nanoparticles, nanowires, sensor, skin, Hydrogen-peroxide, Perforated nanomembranes


Bar L, Perissinotto F, Redondo-Morata L, Giannotti MI, Goole J, Losada-Pérez P, (2022). Interactions of hydrophilic quantum dots with defect-free and defect containing supported lipid membranes Colloids And Surfaces B-Biointerfaces 210, 112239

Quantum dots (QDs) are semiconductor nanoparticles with unique optical and electronic properties, whose interest as potential nano-theranostic platforms for imaging and sensing is increasing. The design and use of QDs requires the understanding of cell-nanoparticle interactions at a microscopic and nanoscale level. Model systems such as supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) are useful, less complex platforms mimicking physico-chemical properties of cell membranes. In this work, we investigated the effect of topographical homogeneity of SLBs bearing different surface charge in the adsorption of hydrophilic QDs. Using quartz-crystal microbalance, a label-free surface sensitive technique, we show significant differences in the interactions of QDs onto homogeneous and inhomogeneous SLBs formed following different strategies. Within short time scales, QDs adsorb onto topographically homogeneous, defect-free SLBs is driven by electrostatic interactions, leading to no layer disruption. After prolonged QD exposure, the nanomechanical stability of the SLB decreases suggesting nanoparticle insertion. In the case of inhomogeneous, defect containing layers, QDs target preferentially membrane defects, driven by a subtle interplay of electrostatic and entropic effects, inducing local vesicle rupture and QD insertion at membrane edges. © 2021

JTD Keywords: adsorption, atomic force microscopy, bilayer formation, gold nanoparticles, hydrophilic quantum dots, lipid membrane defects, model, nanomechanics, quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation, size, supported lipid bilayers, surfaces, Atomic force microscopy, Atomic-force-microscopy, Cytology, Defect-free, Electronic properties, Electrostatics, Hydrophilic quantum dot, Hydrophilic quantum dots, Hydrophilicity, Hydrophilics, Lipid bilayers, Lipid membrane defect, Lipid membrane defects, Lipid membranes, Lipids, Nanocrystals, Nanomechanics, Optical and electronic properties, Quartz, Quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation, Quartz crystal microbalances, Quartz-crystal microbalance, Semiconductor nanoparticles, Semiconductor quantum dots, Supported lipid bilayers


Ferrer I, Andrés-Benito P, Ausín K, Pamplona R, del Rio JA, Fernández-Irigoyen J, Santamaría E, (2021). Dysregulated protein phosphorylation: A determining condition in the continuum of brain aging and Alzheimer's disease Brain Pathology 31,

Tau hyperphosphorylation is the first step of neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) formation. In the present study, samples of the entorhinal cortex (EC) and frontal cortex area 8 (FC) of cases with NFT pathology classified as stages I–II, III–IV, and V–VI without comorbidities, and of middle-aged (MA) individuals with no NFT pathology, were analyzed by conventional label-free and SWATH-MS (sequential window acquisition of all theoretical fragment ion spectra mass spectrometry) to assess the (phospho)proteomes. The total number of identified dysregulated phosphoproteins was 214 in the EC, 65 of which were dysregulated at the first stages (I–II) of NFT pathology; 167 phosphoproteins were dysregulated in the FC, 81 of them at stages I–II of NFT pathology. A large percentage of dysregulated phosphoproteins were identified in the two regions and at different stages of NFT progression. The main group of dysregulated phosphoproteins was made up of components of the membranes, cytoskeleton, synapses, proteins linked to membrane transport and ion channels, and kinases. The present results show abnormal phosphorylation of proteins at the first stages of NFT pathology in the elderly (in individuals clinically considered representative of normal aging) and sporadic Alzheimer's disease (sAD). Dysregulated protein phosphorylation in the FC precedes the formation of NFTs and SPs. The most active period of dysregulated phosphorylation is at stages III–IV when a subpopulation of individuals might be clinically categorized as suffering from mild cognitive impairment which is a preceding determinant stage in the progression to dementia. Altered phosphorylation of selected proteins, carried out by activation of several kinases, may alter membrane and cytoskeletal functions, among them synaptic transmission and membrane/cytoskeleton signaling. Besides their implications in sAD, the present observations suggest a molecular substrate for “benign” cognitive deterioration in “normal” brain aging.

JTD Keywords: (phospho)proteomics, alzheimer's disease, amyloid-beta, association guidelines, brain aging, cytoskeleton, frontal-cortex, kinases, lipid rafts, membranes, national institute, neuropathologic assessment, pathological process, protein phosphorylation, synapse pathology, synapses, tau, tau pathology, (phospho)proteomics, Age-related tauopathy, Alzheimer's disease, Brain aging, Cytoskeleton, Kinases, Membranes, Protein phosphorylation, Synapses, Tau


Avalos-Padilla Y, Georgiev VN, Dimova R, (2021). ESCRT-III induces phase separation in model membranes prior to budding and causes invagination of the liquid-ordered phase Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes 1863,

Membrane fission triggered by the endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) is an important process observed in several pathogenic and non-pathogenic cellular events. From a synthetic-biology viewpoint, ESCRT proteins represent an interesting machinery for the construction of cell mimetic sub-compartments produced by fission. Since their discovery, the studies on ESCRT-III-mediated action, have mainly focused on protein dynamics, ignoring the role of lipid organization and membrane phase state. Recently, it has been suggested that membrane buds formed by the action of ESCRT-III are generated from transient microdomains in endosomal membranes. However, the interplay between membrane domain formation and ESCRT remodeling pathways has not been investigated. Here, giant unilamellar vesicles made of ternary lipid mixtures, either homogeneous in phase or exhibiting liquid-ordered/liquid-disordered phase coexistence, were employed as a model membrane system. These vesicles were incubated with purified recombinant ESCRT-III proteins from the parasite Entamoeba histolytica. In homogeneous membranes, we observe that EhVps32 can trigger domain formation while EhVps20 preferentially co-localizes in the liquid disordered phase. The addition of EhVps24 appears to induce the formation of intraluminal vesicles produced from the liquid-ordered phase. In phase separated membranes, the intraluminal vesicles are also generated from the liquid-ordered phase and presumably emerge from the phase boundary region. Our findings reinforce the hypothesis that ESCRT-mediated remodeling depends on the membrane phase state. Furthermore, the obtained results point to a potential synthetic biology approach for establishing eukaryotic mimics of artificial cells with microcompartments of specific membrane composition, which can also differ from that of the mother vesicle.

JTD Keywords: cell-membranes, coexistence, complex, escrt-iii, fission, guvs, lipid domains, lipid rafts, membrane fission, microcompartments, microscopy, phase separation, plasma-membrane, protein microarrays, structural basis, ternary mixtures, Escrt-iii, Giant unilamellar vesicles, Guvs, Lipid domains, Membrane fission, Microcompartments, Phase separation, Ternary mixtures


Nyga, Agata, Muñoz, Jose J., Dercksen, Suze, Fornabaio, Giulia, Uroz, Marina, Trepat, Xavier, Baum, Buzz, Matthews, Helen K., Conte, Vito, (2021). Oncogenic RAS instructs morphological transformation of human epithelia via differential tissue mechanics Science Advances 7,

Molina, B. G., Lopes-Rodrigues, M., Estrany, F., Michaux, C., Perpète, E. A., Armelin, E., Alemán, C., (2020). Free-standing flexible and biomimetic hybrid membranes for ions and ATP transport Journal of Membrane Science 601, 117931

The transport of metabolites across robust, flexible and free-standing biomimetic membranes made of three perforated poly (lactic acid) (pPLA) layers, separated by two anodically polymerized conducting layers of poly (3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene-co-3-dodecylthiophene), and functionalized on the external pPLA layers with a voltage dependent anion channel (VDAC) protein, has been demonstrated. The three pPLA layers offer robustness and flexibility to the bioactive platform and the possibility of obtaining conducing polymer layers by in situ anodic polymerization. The incorporation of dodecylthiophene units, which bear a 12 carbon atoms long linear alkyl chain, to the conducting layers allows mimicking the amphiphilic environment offered by lipids in cells, increasing 32% the efficiency of the functionalization. Electrochemical impedance measurements in NaCl and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) solutions prove that the integration of the VDAC porin inside the PLA perforations considerably increases the membrane conductivity and is crucial for the electrolyte diffusion. Such results open the door for the development of advanced sensing devices for a broad panel of biomedical applications.

JTD Keywords: Conducting polymers, Membrane proteins, Membranes, Polylactic acid, Self-supported films


Maiti, B., Abramov, A., Franco, L., Puiggalí, J., Enshaei, H., Alemán, C., Díaz, D. D., (2020). Thermoresponsive shape-memory hydrogel actuators made by phototriggered click chemistry Advanced Functional Materials 30, (24), 2001683

This article describes the design and synthesis of a new series of hydrogel membranes composed of trialkyne derivatives of glycerol ethoxylate and bisphenol A diazide (BA-diazide) or diazide-terminated PEG600 monomer via a Cu(I)-catalyzed photoclick reaction. The water-swollen hydrogel membranes display thermoresponsive actuation and their lower critical solution temperature (LCST) values are determined by differential scanning calorimetry. Glycerol ethoxylate moiety serves as the thermoresponsive component and hydrophilic part, while the azide-based component acts as the hydrophobic comonomer and most likely provides a critical hydrophobic/hydrophilic balance contributing also to the significant mechanical strength of the membranes. These hydrogels exhibit a reversible shape-memory effect in response to temperature through a defined phase transition. The swelling and deswelling behavior of the membranes are systematically examined. Due to the click nature of the reaction, easy availability of azide and alkyne functional-monomers, and the polymer architecture, the glass transition temperature (Tg) is easily controlled through monomer design and crosslink density by varying the feed ratio of different monomers. The mechanical properties of the membranes are studied by universal tensile testing measurements. Moreover, the hydrogels show the ability to absorb a dye and release it in a controlled manner by applying heat below and above the LCST.

JTD Keywords: Hydrogels, Membranes, Photoclick, Polymers, Shape-memory, Thermoresponsive


Torres-Sanchez, A., Millan, D., Arroyo, M., (2019). Modelling fluid deformable surfaces with an emphasis on biological interfaces Journal of Fluid Mechanics 872, 218-271

Fluid deformable surfaces are ubiquitous in cell and tissue biology, including lipid bilayers, the actomyosin cortex or epithelial cell sheets. These interfaces exhibit a complex interplay between elasticity, low Reynolds number interfacial hydrodynamics, chemistry and geometry, and govern important biological processes such as cellular traffic, division, migration or tissue morphogenesis. To address the modelling challenges posed by this class of problems, in which interfacial phenomena tightly interact with the shape and dynamics of the surface, we develop a general continuum mechanics and computational framework for fluid deformable surfaces. The dual solid–fluid nature of fluid deformable surfaces challenges classical Lagrangian or Eulerian descriptions of deforming bodies. Here, we extend the notion of arbitrarily Lagrangian–Eulerian (ALE) formulations, well-established for bulk media, to deforming surfaces. To systematically develop models for fluid deformable surfaces, which consistently treat all couplings between fields and geometry, we follow a nonlinear Onsager formalism according to which the dynamics minimizes a Rayleighian functional where dissipation, power input and energy release rate compete. Finally, we propose new computational methods, which build on Onsager’s formalism and our ALE formulation, to deal with the resulting stiff system of higher-order partial differential equations. We apply our theoretical and computational methodology to classical models for lipid bilayers and the cell cortex. The methods developed here allow us to formulate/simulate these models in their full three-dimensional generality, accounting for finite curvatures and finite shape changes.

JTD Keywords: Capsule/cell dynamics, Computational methods, Membranes


Gumí-Audenis, B., Giannotti, M. I., (2019). Structural and mechanical characterization of supported model membranes by AFM Biomimetic Lipid Membranes: Fundamentals, Applications, and Commercialization (ed. Kök, Fatma N., Arslan Yildiz, Ahu, Inci, Fatih), Springer International Publishing (Cham, Germany) , 1-27

Several cellular processes, including adhesion, signaling and transcription, endocytosis, and membrane resealing, among others, involve conformational changes such as bending, vesiculation, and tubulation. These mechanisms generally involve membrane separation from the cytoskeleton as well as strong bending, for which the membrane chemical composition and physicochemical properties, often highly localized and dynamic, are key players. The mechanical role of the lipid membrane in force triggered (or sensing) mechanisms in cells is important, and understanding the lipid bilayers’ physical and mechanical properties is essential to comprehend their contribution to the overall membrane. Atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based experimental approaches have been to date very valuable to deepen into these aspects. As a stand-alone, high-resolution imaging technique and force transducer with the possibility to operate in aqueous environment, it defies most other surface instrumentation in ease of use, sensitivity and versatility. In this chapter, we introduce the different AFM-based methods to assess topological and nanomechanical information on model membranes, specifically to supported lipid bilayers (SLBs), including several examples ranging from pure phospholipid homogeneous bilayers to multicomponent and phase-separated SLBs, increasing the bilayer complexity, in the direction of mimicking biological membranes.

JTD Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Force spectroscopy, Model membranes, Nanomechanics, Supported lipid bilayers


Crespo-Villanueva, Adrián, Gumí-Audenis, Berta, Sanz, Fausto, Artzner, Franck, Mériadec, Cristelle, Rousseau, Florence, Lopez, Christelle, Giannotti, M. I., Guyomarc'h, Fanny, (2018). Casein interaction with lipid membranes: Are the phase state or charge density of the phospholipids affecting protein adsorption? Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes 1860, (12), 2588-2598

Casein micelles are ~200 nm electronegative particles that constitute 80 wt% of the milk proteins. During synthesis in the lactating mammary cells, caseins are thought to interact in the form of ~20 nm assemblies, directly with the biological membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum and/or the Golgi apparatus. However, conditions that drive this interaction are not yet known. Atomic force microscopy imaging and force spectroscopy were used to directly observe the adsorption of casein particles on supported phospholipid bilayers with controlled compositions to vary their phase state and surface charge density, as verified by X-ray diffraction and zetametry. At pH 6.7, the casein particles adsorbed onto bilayer phases with zwitterionic and liquid-disordered phospholipid molecules, but not on phases with anionic or ordered phospholipids. Furthermore, the presence of adsorbed caseins altered the stability of the yet exposed bilayer. Considering their respective compositions and symmetry/asymmetry, these results cast light on the possible interactions of casein assemblies with the organelles’ membranes of the lactating mammary cells.

JTD Keywords: Casein proteins, Phospholipid membrane, Supported lipid bilayer, Atomic force microscopy


Gumí-Audenis, Berta, Costa, Luca, Carlá, Francesco, Comin, Fabio, Sanz, Fausto, Giannotti, M. I., (2016). Structure and nanomechanics of model membranes by atomic force microscopy and spectroscopy: Insights into the role of cholesterol and sphingolipids Membranes , 6, (4), 58

Biological membranes mediate several biological processes that are directly associated with their physical properties but sometimes difficult to evaluate. Supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) are model systems widely used to characterize the structure of biological membranes. Cholesterol (Chol) plays an essential role in the modulation of membrane physical properties. It directly influences the order and mechanical stability of the lipid bilayers, and it is known to laterally segregate in rafts in the outer leaflet of the membrane together with sphingolipids (SLs). Atomic force microscope (AFM) is a powerful tool as it is capable to sense and apply forces with high accuracy, with distance and force resolution at the nanoscale, and in a controlled environment. AFM-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS) has become a crucial technique to study the nanomechanical stability of SLBs by controlling the liquid media and the temperature variations. In this contribution, we review recent AFM and AFM-FS studies on the effect of Chol on the morphology and mechanical properties of model SLBs, including complex bilayers containing SLs. We also introduce a promising combination of AFM and X-ray (XR) techniques that allows for in situ characterization of dynamic processes, providing structural, morphological, and nanomechanical information

JTD Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Force spectroscopy, Lipid membranes, Supported lipid bilayers, Nanomechanics, Cholesterol, Sphingolipids, Membrane structure, XR-AFM combination


Gumí-Audenis, B., Carlà, F., Vitorino, M. V., Panzarella, A., Porcar, L., Boilot, M., Guerber, S., Bernard, P., Rodrigues, M. S., Sanz, F., Giannotti, M. I., Costa, L., (2015). Custom AFM for X-ray beamlines: in situ biological investigations under physiological conditions Journal of Synchrotron Radiation , 22, 1364-1371

A fast atomic force microscope (AFM) has been developed that can be installed as a sample holder for grazing-incidence X-ray experiments at solid/gas or solid/liquid interfaces. It allows a wide range of possible investigations, including soft and biological samples under physiological conditions (hydrated specimens). The structural information obtained using the X-rays is combined with the data gathered with the AFM (morphology and mechanical properties), providing a unique characterization of the specimen and its dynamics in situ during an experiment. In this work, lipid monolayers and bilayers in air or liquid environment have been investigated by means of AFM, both with imaging and force spectroscopy, and X-ray reflectivity. In addition, this combination allows the radiation damage induced by the beam on the sample to be studied, as has been observed on DOPC and DPPC supported lipid bilayers under physiological conditions.

JTD Keywords: In situ atomic force microscopy, Grazing-incidence scattering and reflectivity, Radiation damage, Model lipid membranes


Mir, M., Lugo, R., Tahirbegi, I. B., Samitier, J., (2014). Miniaturizable ion-selective arrays based on highly stable polymer membranes for biomedical applications Sensors 14, (7), 11844-11854

Poly(vinylchloride) (PVC) is the most common polymer matrix used in the fabrication of ion-selective electrodes (ISEs). However, the surfaces of PVC-based sensors have been reported to show membrane instability. In an attempt to overcome this limitation, here we developed two alternative methods for the preparation of highly stable and robust ion-selective sensors. These platforms are based on the selective electropolymerization of poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT), where the sulfur atoms contained in the polymer covalently interact with the gold electrode, also permitting controlled selective attachment on a miniaturized electrode in an array format. This platform sensor was improved with the crosslinking of the membrane compounds with poly(ethyleneglycol) diglycidyl ether (PEG), thus also increasing the biocompatibility of the sensor. The resulting ISE membranes showed faster signal stabilization of the sensor response compared with that of the PVC matrix and also better reproducibility and stability, thus making these platforms highly suitable candidates for the manufacture of robust implantable sensors.

JTD Keywords: Biomedicine, Electrochemistry, Endoscope, Implantable device, Ion-selective electrode (ISE) sensor, Ischemia, pH detection, Biocompatibility, Chemical sensors, Electrochemistry, Electrodes, Electropolymerization, Endoscopy, Functional polymers, Implants (surgical), Ion selective electrodes, Medical applications, Polyvinyl chlorides, Stabilization, Biomedical applications, Biomedicine, Implantable devices, Ion selective sensors, Ischemia, Membrane instability, pH detection, Poly(3 ,4 ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT), Ion selective membranes


Tejeda-Montes, E., Smith, K. H., Poch, M., López-Bosque, M. J., Martín, L., Alonso, M., Engel, E., Mata, Alvaro., (2012). Engineering membrane scaffolds with both physical and biomolecular signaling Acta Biomaterialia 8, (3), 998-1009

We report on the combination of a top-down and bottom-up approach to develop thin bioactive membrane scaffolds based on functional elastin-like polymers (ELPs). Our strategy combines ELP cross-linking and assembly, and a variety of standard and novel micro/nanofabrication techniques to create self-supporting membranes down to ∼500 nm thick that incorporate both physical and biomolecular signals, which can be easily tailored for a specific application. In this study we used an ELP that included the cell-binding motif arginine-glycine-aspartic acid-serine (RGDS). Furthermore, fabrication processes were developed to create membranes that exhibited topographical patterns with features down to 200 nm in lateral dimensions and up to 10 μm in height on either one or both sides, uniform and well-defined pores, or multiple ELP layers. A variety of processing parameters were tested in order to optimize membrane fabrication, including ELP and cross-linker concentration, temperature, reaction time and ambient humidity. Membrane micro/nanopatterning, swelling and stiffness were characterized by atomic force microscopy, nanoindentation tests and scanning electron microscopy. Upon immersion in phosphate-buffered saline and an increase in temperature from 25 to 40°C, membranes exhibited a significant increase in surface stiffness, with the reduced Young's modulus increasing with temperature. Finally, rat mesenchymal stem cells were cultured on thin RGDS-containing membranes, which allowed cell adhesion, qualitatively enhanced spreading compared to membranes without RGDS epitopes and permitted proliferation. Furthermore, cell morphology was drastically affected by topographical patterns on the surface of the membranes.

JTD Keywords: Elastin-like polymers, Membranes, Nanotechnology, Scaffolds, Tissue engineering


Redondo-Morata, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2012). AFM-based force-clamp monitors lipid bilayer failure kinetics Langmuir 28, (15), 6403-6410

The lipid bilayer rupture phenomenon is here explored by means of atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based force clamp, for the first time to our knowledge, to evaluate how lipid membranes respond when compressed under an external constant force, in the range of nanonewtons. Using this method, we were able to directly quantify the kinetics of the membrane rupture event and the associated energy barriers, for both single supported bilayers and multibilayers, in contradistinction to the classic studies performed at constant velocity. Moreover, the affected area of the membrane during the rupture process was calculated using an elastic deformation model. The elucidated information not only contributes to a better understanding of such relevant process, but also proves the suitability of AFM-based force clamp to study model structures as lipid bilayers. These findings on the kinetics of lipid bilayers rupture could be extended and applied to the study of other molecular thin films. Furthermore, systems of higher complexity such as models mimicking cell membranes could be studied by means of AFM-based force-clamp technique.

JTD Keywords: Chain-Length, Spectroscopy, Nanomechanics, Microscopy, Elasticity, Stability, Membranes, Reveals, Fusion, Ions


Redondo, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2012). Stability of lipid bilayers as model membranes: Atomic force microscopy and spectroscopy approach Atomic force microscopy in liquid (ed. Baró, A. M., Reifenberger, R. G.), Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co.KGaA (Weinheim, Germany) Part I: General Atomic Force Microscopy, 259-284

van Zanten, T. S., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2012). Super-resolution near-field optical microscopy Comprehensive Biophysics (ed. Egelman, E. H.), Elsevier (Desdren, Germany) Volume 2: Biophysical Techniques for Characterization of Cells, 144-164

Near-field optical microscopy is a technique not limited by the laws of diffraction that enables simultaneous high-resolution fluorescence and topographic measurements at the nanometer scale. This chapter highlights the intrinsic advantages of near-field optics in the study of cellular structures. The first part of the chapter lays the foundations of the near-field concept and technical implementation of near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM), whereas the second part of the chapter focuses on applications of NSOM to the study of model membranes and cellular structures on the plasma membrane. The last part of the chapter discusses further directions of near-field optics, including optical antennas and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy approaches in the near-field regime.

JTD Keywords: Biological membranes, Cell membrane nanoscale compartmentalization, Cellular nanodomains, Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy in reduced volumes, Immunoreceptor imaging, Lipid rafts, Near-field scanning optical microscopy, Optical nano-antennas, Shear force imaging, Single molecule detection, Super-resolution microscopy


Miranda Coelho, Nuno, Gonzalez-Garcia, Cristina, Salmeron-Sanchez, Manuel, Altankov, George, (2011). Arrangement of type IV collagen and laminin on substrates with controlled density of -OH groups Tissue Engineering Part A , 17, (17-18), 2245-2257

Collagen IV (Col IV) and laminin (Lam) are the main structural components of the basement membrane where they form two overlapping polymeric networks. We studied the adsorption pattern of these proteins on five model surfaces with tailored density of -OH groups obtained by copolymerization of different ratios ethyl acrylate (EA) and hydroxyl EA (HEA): X(OH) = 0, X(OH) = 0.3, X(OH) = 0.5, X(OH) = 0.7, and X(OH) = 1 (where X refers the ratio of HEA). Atomic force microscopy revealed substratum-specific adsorption patterns of Col IV and Lam, ranging from single molecules deposition on more hydrophilic substrata to the formation of complex networks on hydrophobic ones. Human umbilical endothelial cells were used to study the biological performance of adsorbed proteins, following the overall cell morphology, the quantities for cell adhesion and spreading, and the development of focal adhesion complexes and actin cytoskeleton. Surprisingly, two optima in the cellular interaction were observed-one on the most hydrophilic X(OH) = 1 and other on the relatively hydrophobic X(OH) = 0.3 substrate-valid for both Col IV and Lam. When the proteins were adsorbed consecutively, a hydrophobic shift to X(OH) = 0 substratum was obtained. Collectively, these data suggest that varying with the density of -OH groups one can tailor the conformation and the functional activity of adsorbed basement membrane proteins.

JTD Keywords: Atomic-force microscopy, Fibronectin adsorption, Basement-membranes, Polymer surfaces, Cell-adhesion, Biomaterials, Wettability, Fibrinogen


Sánchez-Martín, M. J., Urbán, P., Pujol, M., Haro, I., Alsina, M. A., Busquets, M. A., (2011). Biophysical investigations of GBV-C E1 peptides as potential inhibitors of HIV-1 fusion peptide ChemPhysChem , 12, (15), 2816-2822

Five peptide sequences corresponding to the E1 protein of GBV-C [NCCAPEDIGFCLEGGCLV (P7), APEDIGFCLEGGCLVALG (P8), FCLEGGCLVALGCTICTD (P10), QAGLAVRPGKSAAQLVGE (P18), and AQLVGELGSLYGPLSVSA (P22)] were synthesized because they were capable of interfering with the HIV-1 fusion peptide (HIV-1 FP)-vesicle interaction. In this work the interaction of these peptides with the HIV-1 FP, as well as with membrane models, was analyzed to corroborate their inhibition ability and to understand if the interaction with the fusion peptide takes place in solution or at the membrane level. Several studies were carried out on aggregation and membrane fusion, surface Plasmon resonance, and conformational analysis by circular dichroism. Moreover, in vitro toxicity assays, including cytotoxicity studies in 3T3 fibroblasts and hemolysis assays in human red blood cells, were performed to evaluate if these peptides could be potentially used in anti-HIV-1 therapy. Results show that P10 is not capable of inhibiting membrane fusion caused by HIV-1 and it aggregates liposomes and fuses membranes, thus we decided to discard it for futures studies. P18 and P22 do not inhibit membrane fusion, but they inhibit the ability of HIV-1 FP to form pores in bilayers, thus we have not discarded them yet. P7 and P8 were selected as the best candidates for future studies because they are capable of inhibiting membrane fusion and the interaction of HIV-1 FP with bilayers. Therefore, these peptides could be potentially used in future anti-HIV-1 research. Part of the gang: Liposomes are deposited on a surface plasmon resonance chip (see AFM image of the chip) to observe the interaction of peptides corresponding to the E1 envelop protein of the hepatitis G virus with membranes to show how they reduce the interaction of the HIV-1 fusion peptide.

JTD Keywords: HIV-1 fusion protein, Liposomes, Membranes, Peptides, Viruses


Garcia-Manyes, S., Redondo-Morata, L., Oncins, G., Sanz, F., (2010). Nanomechanics of lipid bilayers: Heads or tails? Journal of the American Chemical Society American Chemical Society 132, (37), 12874-12886

Understanding the effect of mechanical stress on membranes is of primary importance in biophysics. Here we use force spectroscopy AFM to quantitatively characterize the nanomechanical stability of supported lipid bilayers as a function of their chemical composition. The onset of plastic deformation reveals itself as a repetitive jump in the approaching force curve, which represents a molecular fingerprint for the bilayer mechanical stability. By systematically probing a set of chemically distinct supported lipid bilayers (SLBs), we first show that both the headgroup and tail have a decisive effect on their mechanical properties. While the mechanical stability of the probed SLBs linearly increases by 3.3 nN upon the introduction of each additional -CH2- in the chain, it exhibits a significant dependence on the phospholipid headgroup, ranging from 3 nN for DPPA to 66 nN for DPPG. Furthermore, we also quantify the reduction of the membrane mechanical stability as a function of the number of unsaturations and molecular branching in the chemical structure of the apolar tails. Finally, we demonstrate that, upon introduction of cholesterol and ergosterol, contrary to previous belief the mechanical stability of membranes not only increases linearly in the liquid phase (DLPC) but also for phospholipids present in the gel phase (DPPC). Our results are discussed in the framework of the continuum nucleation model. This work highlights the compelling effect of subtle variations in the chemical structure of phospholipid molecules on the membrane response when exposed to mechanical forces, a mechanism of common occurrence in nature.

JTD Keywords: Atomic-force microscopy, Molecular-dynamics simulation, Aqueous-electrolyte solutions, Supported planar membranes, Phospholipid-bilayers, Biological-membranes, Physical-properties, Fluid membranes, Model membranes, Chain-length


van Zanten, Thomas S., Lopez-Bosque, M. J . , Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2010). Imaging individual proteins and nanodomains on intact cell membranes with a probe-based optical antenna Small 6, (2), 270-275

Optical antennas that confine and enhance electromagnetic fields in a nanometric region hold great potential for nanobioimaging and biosensing. Probe-based monopole optical antennas are fabricated to enhance fields localized to <30 nm near the antenna apex in aqueous conditions. These probes are used under appropriate excitation antenna conditions to image individual antibodies with an unprecedented resolution of 26 ± 4 nm and virtually no surrounding background. On intact cell membranes in physiological conditions, the obtained resolution is 30 ± 6 nm. Importantly, the method allows individual proteins to be distinguished from nanodomains and the degree of clustering to be quantified by directly measuring physical size and intensity of individual fluorescent spots. Improved antenna geometries should lead to true live cell imaging below 10-nm resolution with position accuracy in the subnanometric range.

JTD Keywords: Cell membranes, Cell receptors, Focused ion beam milling, Nanodomains, Optical antennas


Fumagalli, L., Ferrari, G., Sampietro, M., Gomila, G., (2009). Quantitative nanoscale dielectric microscopy of single-layer supported biomembranes Nano Letters 9, (4), 1604-1608

We present the experimental demonstration of low-frequency dielectric constant imaging of single-layer supported biomembranes at the nanoscale. The dielectric constant image has been quantitatively reconstructed by combining the thickness and local capacitance obtained using a scanning force microscope equipped with a sub-attofarad low-frequency capacitance detector. This work opens new possibilities for studying bioelectric phenomena and the dielectric properties of biological membranes at the nanoscale.

JTD Keywords: Atomic-force microscopy, Nnear-field microscopy, Purple membrane, Scanning capacitance, Biological-systems, Fluid, Spectroscopy, Resolution, Proteins, Dynamics


Nussio, M. R., Oncins, G., Ridelis, I., Szili, E., Shapter, J. G., Sanz, F., Voelcker, N. H., (2009). Nanomechanical characterization of phospholipid bilayer islands on flat and porous substrates: A force spectroscopy study Journal of Physical Chemistry B , 113, (30), 10339-10347

In this study, we compare for the first time the nanomechanical properties of lipid bilayer islands on flat and porous surfaces. 1,2-Dimyzistoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (DMPC) and 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (DPPC) bilayers were deposited on flat (silicon and mica) and porous silicon (pSi) substrate surfaces and examined using atomic force spectroscopy and force volume imaging. Force spectroscopy measurements revealed the effects of the underlying substrate and of the lipid phase on the nanomechanical properties of bilayers islands. For mica and silicon, significant differences in breakthrough force between the center and the edges of bilayer islands were observed for both phospolipids. These differences were more pronounced for DMPC than for DPPC, presumably due to melting effects at the edges of DMPC bilayers. In contrast, bilayer islands deposited on pSi yielded similar breakthrough forces in the central region and along the perimeter of the islands, and those values in turn were similar to those measured along the perimeter of bilayer islands deposited on the flat substrates. The study also demonstrates that pSi is suitable solid support for the formation of pore-spanning phospholipid bilayers with potential applications in transmembrane protein studies, drug delivery, and biosensing.

JTD Keywords: Black lipid-membranes, Gold surfaces, Supported bilayers, Channel activity, Micro-BLMS, Silicon, Proteins, Vesicles, AFM, Temperature measurement


Cho, S., Castellarnau, M., Samitier, J., Thielecke, H., (2008). Dependence of impedance of embedded single cells on cellular behaviour Sensors 8, (2), 1198-1211

Non-invasive single cell analyses are increasingly required for the medical diagnostics of test substances or the development of drugs and therapies on the single cell level. For the non-invasive characterisation of cells, impedance spectroscopy which provides the frequency dependent electrical properties has been used. Recently, microfludic systems have been investigated to manipulate the single cells and to characterise the electrical properties of embedded cells. In this article, the impedance of partially embedded single cells dependent on the cellular behaviour was investigated by using the microcapillary. An analytical equation was derived to relate the impedance of embedded cells with respect to the morphological and physiological change of extracellular interface. The capillary system with impedance measurement showed a feasibility to monitor the impedance change of embedded single cells caused by morphological and physiological change of cell during the addition of DMSO. By fitting the derived equation to the measured impedance of cell embedded at different negative pressure levels, it was able to extrapolate the equivalent gap and gap conductivity between the cell and capillary wall representing the cellular behaviour.

JTD Keywords: Frequency-domain, Spectroscopy, Erythrocytes, Biosensor, Membrane, System


De Bakker, B. I., De Lange, F., Cambi, A., Korterik, J. P., Van Dijk, E. M. H. P., Van Hulst, N. F., Figdor, C. G., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2007). Nanoscale organization of the pathogen receptor DC-SIGN mapped by single-molecule high-resolution fluorescence microscopy ChemPhysChem , 8, (10), 1473-1480

DC-SIGN, a C-type lectin exclusively expressed on dendritic cells (DCs), plays an important role in pathogen recognition by binding with high affinity to a large variety of microorganisms. Recent experimental evidence points to a direct relation between the function of DC-SIGN as a viral receptor and its spatial arrangement on the plasma membrane. We have investigated the nanoscale organization of fluorescently labeled DC-SIGN on intact isolated DCs by means of near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM) combined with single-molecule detection. Fluorescence spots of different intensity and size have been directly visualized by optical means with a spatial resolution of less than 100 nm. Intensity- and size-distribution histograms of the DC-SIGN fluorescent spots confirm that approximately 80% of the receptors are organized in nanosized domains randomly distributed on the cell membrane. Intensity-size correlation analysis revealed remarkable heterogeneity in the molecular packing density of the domains. Furthermore, we have mapped the intermolecular organization within a dense cluster by means of sequential NSOM imaging combined with discrete single-molecule photobleaching. In this way we have determined the spatial coordinates of 13 different individual dyes, with a localization accuracy of 6 nm. Our experimental observations are all consistent with an arrangement of DC-SIGN designed to maximize its chances of binding to a wide range of microorganisms. Our data also illustrate the potential of NSOM as an ultrasensitive, high-resolution technique to probe nanometer-scale organization of molecules on the cell membrane.

JTD Keywords: High-resolution optical microscopy, Lectins, Membranes, Receptors, Single-molecule studies