Physical Chemistry

Biomimetic Curvature and Tension-Driven Membrane Fusion Induced by Silica Nanoparticles



Membrane fusion is a key process to develop new technologies in synthetic biology, where artificial cells function as biomimetic chemical microreactors. Fusion events in living cells are intricate phenomena that require the coordinate action of multicomponent protein complexes. However, simpler synthetic tools to control membrane fusion in artificial cells are highly desirable. Native membrane fusion machinery mediates fusion driving a delicate balance of membrane curvature and tension between two closely apposed membranes. Here we show that silica nanoparticles (SiO2 NPs) at a size close to the cross-over between tension-driven and curvature-driven interaction regimes initiate efficient fusion of biomimetic model membranes. Fusion efficiency and mechanisms are studied by Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) and confocal fluorescence microscopy. SiO2 NPs induce a slight increase in lipid packing likely to increase the lateral tension of the membrane. We observe a connection between membrane tension and fusion efficiency. Finally, real-time confocal fluorescence microscopy reveals three distinct mechanistic pathways for membrane fusion. SiO2 NPs show significant potential for inclusion in the synthetic biology toolkit for membrane remodelling and fusion in artificial cells.

Version notes

preprint version 1


Thumbnail image of SiO2Fusion_manuscript_ChemRxiv.pdf

Supplementary material

Thumbnail image of Supporting_information_SiO2Fusion_ChemRxiv.pdf
Supporting information SiO2Fusion ChemRxiv
Thumbnail image of Supplementary_Movie_3.avi
Supplementary Movie 3
Thumbnail image of Supplementary_Movie_4.avi
Supplementary Movie 4
Thumbnail image of Supplementary_Movie_5.avi
Supplementary Movie 5
Thumbnail image of Supplementary_Movie_6.avi
Supplementary Movie 6
Thumbnail image of Supplementary_Movie_1.avi
Supplementary Movie 1
Thumbnail image of Supplementary_Movie_2.avi
Supplementary Movie 2