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Eur Biophys J. 2018 Apr;47(3):309-316. doi: 10.1007/s00249-017-1264-0. Epub 2017 Nov 2.

Fractal analysis of lateral movement in biomembranes.

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Institute of Chemistry, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Mechanics and Petrochemistry, Warsaw University of Technology, 17 Łukasiewicza St., 09-400, Płock, Poland.


Lateral movement of a molecule in a biomembrane containing small compartments (0.23-μm diameter) and large ones (0.75 μm) is analyzed using a fractal description of its walk. The early time dependence of the mean square displacement varies from linear due to the contribution of ballistic motion. In small compartments, walking molecules do not have sufficient time or space to develop an asymptotic relation and the diffusion coefficient deduced from the experimental records is lower than that measured without restrictions. The model makes it possible to deduce the molecule step parameters, namely the step length and time, from data concerning confined and unrestricted diffusion coefficients. This is also possible using experimental results for sub-diffusive transport. The transition from normal to anomalous diffusion does not affect the molecule step parameters. The experimental literature data on molecular trajectories recorded at a high time resolution appear to confirm the modeled value of the mean free path length of DOPE for Brownian and anomalous diffusion. Although the step length and time give the proper values of diffusion coefficient, the DOPE speed calculated as their quotient is several orders of magnitude lower than the thermal speed. This is interpreted as a result of intermolecular interactions, as confirmed by lateral diffusion of other molecules in different membranes. The molecule step parameters are then utilized to analyze the problem of multiple visits in small compartments. The modeling of the diffusion exponent results in a smooth transition to normal diffusion on entering a large compartment, as observed in experiments.


Confined diffusion; DOPE; Hop diffusion; Interactions; Sub-diffusive transport; Walking step parameters

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