The plasma membrane is a highly compartmentalized, dynamic material and this organization is essential for a wide variety of cellular processes. Nanoscale domains allow proteins to organize for cell signaling, endo- and exocytosis, and other essential processes. Even in the absence of proteins, lipids have the ability to organize into domains as a result of a variety of chemical and physical interactions. One feature of membranes that affects lipid domain formation is membrane curvature. To directly test the role of curvature in lipid sorting, we measured the accumulation of two similar lipids, 1,2-Dihexadecanoyl-sn
-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (DHPE) and hexadecanoic acid (HDA), using a supported lipid bilayer that was assembled over a nanopatterned surface to obtain regions of membrane curvature. Both lipids studied contain 16 carbon, saturated tails and a head group tag for fluorescence microscopy measurements. The accumulation of lipids at curvatures ranging from 28 nm to 55 nm radii was measured and fluorescein labeled DHPE accumulated more than fluorescein labeled HDA at regions of membrane curvature. We then tested whether single biotinylated DHPE molecules sense curvature using single particle tracking methods. Similar to groups of fluorescein labeled DHPE accumulating at curvature, the dynamics of single molecules of biotinylated DHPE was also affected by membrane curvature and highly confined motion was observed.
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