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Directional and Rotational Motions of Nanoparticles on Plasma Membranes as Local Probes of Surface Tension Propagation

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journal contribution
posted on 25.03.2019, 00:00 by Shixin Li, Zengshuai Yan, Zhen Luo, Yan Xu, Fang Huang, Guoqing Hu, Xianren Zhang, Tongtao Yue
Mechanical heterogeneity is ubiquitous in plasma membranes and of essential importance to cellular functioning. As a feedback of mechanical stimuli, local surface tension can be readily changed and immediately propagated through the membrane, influencing structures and dynamics of both inclusions and membrane-associated proteins. Using the nonequilibrium coarse-grained membrane simulation, here we investigate the inter-related processes of tension propagation, lipid diffusion, and transport of nanoparticles (NPs) adhering on the membrane of constant tension gradient, mimicking that of migrating cells or cells under prolonged stimulation. Our results demonstrate that the lipid bilayer membrane can by itself propagate surface tension in defined rates and pathways to reach a dynamic equilibrium state where surface tension is linearly distributed along the gradient maintained by the directional flow-like motion of lipids. Such lipid flow exerts shearing forces to transport adhesive NPs toward the region of a larger surface tension. Under certain conditions, the shearing force can generate nonzero torques driving the rotational motion of NPs, with the direction of the NP rotation determined by the NP–membrane interaction state as functions of both NP property and local membrane surface tension. Such features endow NPs with promising applications ranging from biosensing to targeted drug delivery.