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The Nanomechanics of Lipid Multibilayer Stacks Exhibits Complex Dynamics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
E-pub ahead of print15 May 2017


King's Authors


The nanomechanics of lipid membranes regulates a large number of cellular functions. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the plastic rupture of individual bilayers remain elusive. This study uses force clamp spectroscopy to capture the force-dependent dynamics of membrane failure on a model diphytanoylphosphatidylcholine multilayer stack, which is devoid of surface effects. The obtained kinetic measurements demonstrate that the rupture of an individual lipid bilayer, occurring in the bilayer parallel plane, is a stochastic process that follows a log-normal distribution, compatible with a pore formation mechanism. Furthermore, the vertical individual force-clamp trajectories, occurring in the bilayer orthogonal bilayer plane, reveal that rupturing process occurs through distinct intermediate mechanical transition states that can be ascribed to the fine chemical composition of the hydrated phospholipid moiety. Altogether, these results provide a first description of unanticipated complexity in the energy landscape governing the mechanically induced bilayer rupture process.

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