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Biophys J. 1986 Nov;50(5):779-88.

Morphological responses to calcium-induced interaction of phosphatidylserine-containing vesicles.


Structural changes in phospholipid vesicles made of dioleylphosphatidylethanolamine (DOPE)/bovine phosphatidylserine (PS) (1/1, 3/1, 10/1) or of egg phosphatidylcholine (PC)/PS (3/1) and exposed to calcium chloride for various times have been observed by means of video-enhanced light microscopy and freeze-fracture electron microscopy. Calcium induces the formation of large, smooth double-bilayer diaphragms as the spherical vesicles adhere to and deform each other. No subsequent changes are seen with PC/PS vesicles. DOPE/PS vesicles respond to the resultant stress, with about equal probability, by either fusing, through diaphragm rupture, or deflating, by way of volume loss through intact bilayers, even when they contain up to 400 mM sucrose. The diaphragm areas only rarely show the structural destabilization necessary for fusion. The final state is lipid segregated into DOPE hexagonal and Ca-PS lamellar bulk phases with the exclusion of most of the vesicle contents. Results with these and pure PS vesicles studied earlier indicate that the early response of vesicles to calcium chloride is determined by the competing rates at which mechanical stress (bilayer tension and intravesicular pressure) builds up as the vesicles adhere and flatten against each other, and is relieved by vesicle fusion or by volume loss. We attribute the qualitatively different responses of these three lipid systems to their measured differences in adhesion energies and consequent rate of build-up of mechanical stress. Yield to that stress for any one of these lipid systems is not a unique sequence of morphological changes, and so it remains obscure how such a stochastic process could be used in the controlled process of cellular fusion.

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