Mechanism of Plasmon-Driven Molecular Jackhammers in Mechanical Opening and Disassembly of Membranes

17 January 2024, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Plasmon-driven molecular jackhammers (MJH) are a type of molecular machine that converts photon energy into mechanical energy. Upon insertion into lipid bilayers followed by near infrared light activation, plasmon-driven MJH mechanically open cellular membranes through a process that is not inhibited by reactive oxygen species (ROS) inhibitors and does not induce thermal heating. The molecular mechanism by which the plasmon-driven MJH open and disassembles cellular membranes has not hitherto been established. Here we differentiate the mechanical mechanism in MJH from the ROS-mediated chemical effects in photodynamic therapy or thermal effects in photothermal therapy. We further present a detailed molecular mechanism for the plasmon-driven MJH disassembly of lipid bilayers. The mechanical effects in plasmon-driven MJH disassembly processes on artificial lipid bilayers is done using ROS-unreactive saturated phytanoyl phospholipids. We were able to capture in real-time the lipid bilayer disassembly by MJH using fluorescence confocal microscopy on saturated phospholipids in giant unilamellar vesicles.


molecular machine
molecular plasmon

Supplementary materials

Mechanism of Plasmon-Driven Molecular Jackhammers in Mechanical Opening and Disassembly of Membranes-Supporting Information
Additional graphs, images, NMR spectra, other spectra, and text.


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