Phase Separation and Fractal Domain Formation in Phospholipid/Diacetylene-Supported Lipid Bilayers
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Phase separation in lipid bilayers is a phenomenon dependent on many environmental parameters such as pH, temperature, ionic strength, and pressure. Its importance in biological systems is reflected by the fact that it has been implicated in the spatial reorganization of plasma membranes, which leads to signaling and stimulation. Here, we present the study of phase separation, domain formation, and domain morphology of supported lipid bilayers composed of mixtures of diacetylene lipids and phospholipids. We have used high-resolution fluorescence and atomic force microscopy to characterize the phase separation between these lipids, and have found that at temperatures below 40 degrees C diacetylene molecules form fractal-like domains. These molecules aggregate in tetralayer stacks with an average monolayer thickness of 3 nm. Boundary and area fractal dimensions were calculated to quantify the domain growth and morphology. A transition from dendritic to dense branching growth was observed as the relative diacetylene concentration was increased. The ability to tailor the growth pattern by changing the relative amount of diacetylene molecules makes this a useful model system for the study of nonequilibrium growth phenomena. In addition, we have explored the possibility of promoting diacetylene domain nucleation through the use of nanostructured surfaces. We found that nanoscale perturbations acted as nucleation sites and modified the growth pattern of diacetylene domains. Phase separation induced by nanometer-scale perturbations could prove useful in selectively positioning lipid patches with specific compositions.
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