Physical mechanisms of micro- and nanodomain formation in multicomponent lipid membranes.
- Friederike Schmid
- Biochimica et biophysica acta
We investigate isothermal diffusion and growth of micron-scale liquid domains within membranes of free-floating giant unilamellar vesicles with diameters between 80 and 250 μm. Domains appear after a rapid temperature quench, when the membrane is cooled through a miscibility phase transition such that coexisting liquid phases form. In membranes quenched far from a miscibility critical point, circular domains nucleate and then progress within seconds to late stage coarsening in which domains grow via two mechanisms 1), collision and coalescence of liquid domains, and 2), Ostwald ripening. Both mechanisms are expected to yield the same growth exponent, α = 1/3, where domain radius grows as time(α). We measure α = 0.28 ± 0.05, in excellent agreement. In membranes close to a miscibility critical point, the two liquid phases in the membrane are bicontinuous. A quench near the critical composition results in rapid changes in morphology of elongated domains. In this case, we measure α = 0.50 ± 0.16, consistent with theory and simulation.