Nanoviscosity measurements revealing domain formation in biomimetic membranes Academic Article uri icon


  • Partitioning of lipid molecules in biomimetic membranes is a model system for the study of naturally occurring domains, such as rafts, in biological membranes. The existence of nanometer scale membrane domains in binary lipid mixtures has been shown with microscopy methods; however, the nature of these domains has not been established unequivocally. A common notion is to ascribe domain separation to thermodynamic phase equilibria. However, characterizing thermodynamic phases of single bilayer membranes has not been possible due to their extreme dimensions: the size of the domains falls to the order of tens to hundreds of nanometers whereas the membrane thickness is only a few nanometers. Here, we present direct measurements of phase transitions in single bilayers of 1,2-dimyristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DMPC)/1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) phospholipid mixtures using quartz crystal microbalance-based nanoviscosity measurements. Coexisting thermodynamic phases have been successfully identified, and a phase diagram was constructed for the single bilayer binary lipid system. It was demonstrated that domain separation only takes place in planar membranes, and thus, it is absent in liposomes and not detectable in calorimetric measurements on liposome suspensions. On the basis of energetic analysis, the main transition was identified as the breaking of van der Waals interactions between the acyl chains.

publication date

  • 2017

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