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Langmuir. 2012 Jan 10;28(1):689-700. doi: 10.1021/la203755v. Epub 2011 Dec 15.

Size-dependent properties of small unilamellar vesicles formed by model lipids.

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  • 1Institute of Polymer Science and Engineering, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan 106, ROC.


The size-dependent behavior of small unilamellar vesicles is explored by dissipative particle dynamics, including the membrane characteristics and mechanical properties. The spontaneously formed vesicles are in the metastable state and the vesicle size is controlled by the concentration of model lipids. As the vesicle size decreases, the bilayer gets thinner and the area density of heads declines. Nonetheless, the area density in the inner leaflet is higher than that in the outer. The packing parameters are calculated for both leaflets. The result indicates that the shape of lipid in the outer leaflet is like a truncated cone but that in the inner leaflet resembles an inverted truncated cone. Based on a local order parameter, our simulations indication that the orientation order of lipid molecules decreases as the size of the vesicle reduces and this fact reveals that the bilayer becoming thinner for smaller vesicle is mainly attributed to the orientation disorder of the lipids. The membrane tension can be obtained through the Young-Laplace equation. The tension is found to grow with reducing vesicle size. Therefore, small vesicles are less stable against fusion. Using the inflation method, the area stretching and bending moduli can be determined and those moduli are found to grow with reducing size. Nonetheless, a general equation with a single numerical constant can relate bending modulus, area stretching modulus, and bilayer thickness irrespective of the vesicle size. Finally, a simple metastable model is proposed to explain the size-dependent behavior of bilayer thickness, orientation, and tension.

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