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PMC Biophys. 2009 Apr 17;2(1):3. doi: 10.1186/1757-5036-2-3.

The multiple faces of self-assembled lipidic systems.

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1
Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, Université Paris-Sud, CNRS, UMR 8502, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France. tresset@lps.u-psud.fr.

Abstract

Lipids, the building blocks of cells, common to every living organisms, have the propensity to self-assemble into well-defined structures over short and long-range spatial scales. The driving forces have their roots mainly in the hydrophobic effect and electrostatic interactions. Membranes in lamellar phase are ubiquitous in cellular compartments and can phase-separate upon mixing lipids in different liquid-crystalline states. Hexagonal phases and especially cubic phases can be synthesized and observed in vivo as well. Membrane often closes up into a vesicle whose shape is determined by the interplay of curvature, area difference elasticity and line tension energies, and can adopt the form of a sphere, a tube, a prolate, a starfish and many more. Complexes made of lipids and polyelectrolytes or inorganic materials exhibit a rich diversity of structural morphologies due to additional interactions which become increasingly hard to track without the aid of suitable computer models. From the plasma membrane of archaebacteria to gene delivery, self-assembled lipidic systems have left their mark in cell biology and nanobiotechnology; however, the underlying physics is yet to be fully unraveled.PACS Codes: 87.14.Cc, 82.70.Uv.

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