The Heberle Lab published their research “Investigation of the domain line tension in asymmetric vesicles prepared via hemifusion” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta Biomembranes.
The plasma membrane (PM) is asymmetric in lipid composition. The distinct and characteristic lipid compositions of the exoplasmic and cytoplasmic leaflets lead to different lipid-lipid interactions and physical-chemical properties in each leaflet. The exoplasmic leaflet possesses an intrinsic ability to form coexisting ordered and disordered fluid domains, whereas the cytoplasmic leaflet seems to form a single fluid phase.
To better understand the interleaflet interactions that influence domains, the lab compared asymmetric model membranes that capture salient properties of the PM with simpler symmetric membranes. Using asymmetric giant unilamellar vesicles (aGUVs) prepared by hemifusion with a supported lipid bilayer, they investigate the domain line tension that characterizes the behavior of coexisting ordered + disordered domains. The line tension can be related to the contact perimeter of the different phases. Compared to macroscopic phase separation, the appearance of modulated phases was found to be a robust indicator of a decrease in domain line tension. Symmetric GUVs of 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC)/1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC)/1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC)/cholesterol (chol) were formed into aGUVs by replacing the GUV outer leaflet with DOPC/chol = 0.8/0.2 in order to create a cytoplasmic leaflet model. These aGUVs revealed lower line tension for the ordered + disordered domains of the exoplasmic model leaflet.