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Biophys J. 2003 Mar;84(3):1734-49.

Cascades of transient pores in giant vesicles: line tension and transport.

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Institut Curie, Laboratoire PCC/UMR 168 11, rue Pierre et Marie Curie 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France.


Under ordinary circumstances, the membrane tension of a giant unilamellar vesicle is essentially nil. Using visible light, we stretch the vesicles, increasing the membrane tension until the membrane responds by the sudden opening of a large pore (several micrometers in size). Only a single pore is observed at a time in a given vesicle. However, a cascade of transient pores appear, up to 30-40 in succession, in the same vesicle. These pores are transient: they reseal within a few seconds as the inner liquid leaks out. The membrane tension, which is the driving force for pore opening, is relaxed with the opening of a pore and the leakage of the inner liquid; the line tension of the pore's edge is then able to drive the closure of a pore. We use fluorescent membrane probes and real-time videomicroscopy to study the dynamics of the pores. These can be visualized only if the vesicles are prepared in a viscous solution to slow down the leakout of the internal liquid. From measurements of the closure velocity of the pores, we are able to infer the line tension,. We have studied the effect of the shape of inclusion molecules on. Cholesterol, which can be modeled as an inverted cone-shaped molecule, increases the line tension when incorporated into the bilayers. Conversely, addition of cone-shaped detergents reduces. The effect of some detergents can be dramatic, reducing by two orders of magnitude, and increasing pore lifetimes up to several minutes. We give some examples of transport through transient pores and present a rough measurement of the leakout velocity of the inner liquid through a pore. We discuss how our results can be extended to less viscous aqueous solutions which are more relevant for biological systems and biotechnological applications.

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