How the incorporation of Pluronic block copolymers modulates the response of lipid membranes to mechanical stress

Afroditi Maria Zaki, Paola Carbone

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    Abstract

    We employ atomistic Molecular Dynamics simulations to investigate the effect that the incorporation of the nonionic amphiphilic copolymer known as Pluronic L64 has on the mechanical stability of a DPPC membrane. The simulations reveal that the incorporation of the polymer chains leads to membranes that can sustain increasing mechanical stresses. Analysis of mechanical, structural and dynamic properties of the membrane shows that the polymer chains interact strongly with the lipids in the vicinity, restraining their mobility and imparting better mechanical stability to the membrane. The hybrid membranes under tension remain thicker, more ordered and stiffer in comparison to their lipid analogues. Transbilayer lipid movements (flip-flop) are observed and appear to be triggered by the presence of the polymer chains. A careful analysis of the pore formation under high tensions reveals two distinctive mechanisms that depend on the distribution of the hydrophilic polymer blocks in the bilayer. Finally, the rate of growth of the formed membrane defects is slowed down in the presence of polymers. These findings show that Pluronic block copolymers could be exploited for the formation of optimized hybrid nanodevices with controlled elastic and dynamic properties.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalLangmuir
    Early online date30 Oct 2017
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

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