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Critical fluctuations and anomalous diffusion in two-component lipid membranes: Monte Carlo simulations on experimentally relevant scales

Saechsische Landesbibliothek- Staats- und Universitaetsbibliothek Dresden
Publication Date
  • Monte Carlo Simulation
  • Lipidmembran
  • Anomale Diffusion
  • Kritische Fluktuationen
  • Membran--Zytoskelett-Interaktion
  • Monte Carlos Simulations
  • Lipid Membrane
  • Anomalous Diffusion
  • Critical Fluctuations
  • Membrane--Cytoskeleton Interactions
  • Ddc:570
  • Rvk:We 5000
  • Rvk:Sk 820
  • Computer Science


This work addresses properties of two-component lipid membranes on the experimentally relevant spatial scales of order of a micrometer and time intervals of order of a second by means of lattice-based Monte Carlo (MC) simulations. To be able to do that with reasonable computational efforts the lipid membrane is modeled as a square lattice of lipid molecules with next-neighbor interaction. This allows for efficient computation and thus provides a large-scale simulation with which it was possible to obtain important results previously not reported in simulation studies of lipid membranes. After properly tuning the next-neighbor interaction energies the simulation reproduces the experimental phase diagram of the DMPC/DSPC lipid system which is used as a model system in this work. Beyond that, the MC simulation provides a more detailed description of the phase behavior of the lipid mixture than the experimental data. It is found that, within a certain range of lipid compositions, the phase transition from the fluid phase to the fluid–gel phase coexistence proceeds via near-critical fluctuations, while for other lipid compositions this phase transition has a quasi-abrupt character. The complete combined state and component phase diagram is constructed by structure function analysis which confirms the existence of a critical point in the system. The dynamics of membrane coarsening after an abrupt temperature quench to the fluid–gel coexistence region of the phase diagram are studied. In this context, it is found that lateral diffusion of lipids plays an important role in the fluid–gel phase separation process. Dynamic scaling is observed only if the ratio of gel and fluid phase in the membrane stays constant in time. The line tension characterizing lipid domains in the fluid–gel coexistence region is found to be in the pN range thus matching values both predicted theoretically and measured experimentally. When approaching the critical point, the line tension, the inverse correlation length of fluid–gel spatial fluctuations, and the corresponding inverse order parameter susceptibility of the membrane vanish in agreement with recent experimental findings for model lipid membranes. By simulating single particle tracking and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy experiments it is found that in the presence of near-critical fluctuations lipid molecules show transient subdiffusive behavior, which is a new result important for understanding the origins of subdiffusion in cell membranes which are believed to be close to a critical point. The membrane–cytoskeleton interaction strongly affects phase separation, enhances subdiffusion, and eventually leads to hop diffusion of lipids. Thus, a minimum realistic model for membrane rafts showing the features of both microscopic phase separation and subdiffusion is established.

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