Electro-mechanical permeabilization of lipid vesicles. Role of membrane tension and compressibility.
A simple micropipet technique was used to determine the critical electric field strength for membrane breakdown as a function of the applied membrane tension for three different reconstituted membranes: stearoyloleoylphosphatidylcholine (SOPC), red blood cell (RBC) lipid extract, and SOPC cholesterol (CHOL), 1:1. For these membranes the elastic area expansivity modulus increases from approximately 200 to 600 dyn/cm, and the tension at lysis increases from 5.7 to 13.2 dyn/cm, i.e., the membranes become more cohesive with increasing cholesterol content. The critical membrane voltage, Vc, required for breakdown was also found to increase with increasing cholesterol from 1.1 to 1.8 V at zero membrane tension. We have modeled the behavior in terms of the bilayer expansivity. Membrane area can be increased by either tensile or electrocompressive stresses. Both can store elastic energy in the membrane and eventually cause breakdown at a critical area dilation or critical energy. The model predicts a relation between tension and voltage at breakdown and this relation is verified experimentally for the three reconstituted membrane systems studied here.
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