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Biophys J. 1992 Apr;61(4):974-82.

Local and nonlocal curvature elasticity in bilayer membranes by tether formation from lecithin vesicles.

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Department of Biophysics, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, New York 14642.


Bilayer membranes exhibit an elastic resistance to changes in curvature. This resistance depends both on the intrinsic stiffness of the constituent monolayers and on the curvature-induced expansion or compression of the monolayers relative to each other. The monolayers are constrained by hydrophobic forces to remain in contact, but they are capable of independent lateral redistribution to minimize the relative expansion or compression of each leaflet. Therefore, the magnitude of the expansion and compression of the monolayers relative to each other depends on the integral of the curvature over the entire membrane capsule. The coefficient characterizing the membrane stiffness resulting from relative expansion is the nonlocal bending modulus kr. Both the intrinsic (local) bending modulus (kc) and the nonlocal bending modulus (kr) can be measured by the formation of thin cylindrical membrane strands (tethers) from giant phospholipid vesicles. Previously, we reported measurements of kc based on measurements of tether radius as a function of force (Song and Waugh, 1991, J. Biomech. Engr. 112:233). Further analysis has revealed that the contribution from the nonlocal bending stiffness can be detected by measuring the change in the aspiration pressure required to establish equilibrium with increasing tether length. Using this approach, we obtain a mean value for the nonlocal bending modulus kr of approximately 4.1 x 10(-19)J. The range of values is broad (1.1-10.1 x 10(-19)J) and could reflect contributions other than simple mechanical equilibrium. Inclusion of the nonlocal bending stiffness in the calculation of kc results in a value for that modulus of approximately 1.20 +/- 0.17 x 10(-19)J, in close agreement with values obtained by other methods.

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