Tuning biomimetic membrane barrier properties by hydrocarbon, cholesterol and polymeric additives

Marta Espina Palanco, Nils Skovgaard, Jesper Søndergaard Hansen, Kirstine Berg-Sørensen, Claus Hélix-Nielsen

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The barrier properties of cellular membranes are increasingly attracting attention as a source of inspiration for designing biomimetic membranes. The broad range of potential technological applications makes the use of lipid and lately also polymeric materials a popular choice for constructing biomimetic membranes, where the barrier properties can be controlled by the composition of the membrane constituent elements. Here we investigate the membrane properties reported by the light-induced proton pumping activity of bacteriorhodopsin (bR) reconstituted in three vesicle systems of different membrane composition. Specifically we quantify how the resulting proton influx and efflux rates are influenced by the membrane composition using a variety of membrane modulators. We demonstrate that by adding hydrocarbons to vesicles with reconstituted bR formed from asolectin lipids the resulting transmembrane proton fluxes changes proportional to the carbon chain length when compared against control. We observe a similar proportionality in single-component 1,2-Dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC) model membranes when using cholesterol. Lastly we investigate the effects of adding the amphiphilic di-block co-polymer polybutadiene-polyethyleneoxide (PB12-PEO10) to phospholipid membranes formed from DOPC, 1,2-Dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylethanolamine (DOPE), and 1,2-Dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylserine (DOPS). The proton pumping activity of bR (measured as a change in extra-vesicular pH) in mixed lipid/PB12-PEO10 lipid systems is up to six-fold higher compared to that observed for bR containing vesicles made from PB12-PEO10 alone. Interestingly, bR inserts with apparent opposite orientation in pure PB12-PEO10 vesicles as compared to pure lipid vesicles. Addition of equimolar amounts of lipids to PB12-PEO10 results in bR orientation similar to that observed for pure lipids. In conclusion our results show how the barrier properties of the membranes can be controlled by the composition of the membrane. In particular the use of mixed lipid-polymer systems may pave the way for constructing biomimetic membranes tailored for optimal properties in various applications including drug delivery systems, biosensors and energy conservation technology.
Original languageEnglish
Article number016005
JournalBioinspiration & Biomimetics
Issue number1
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Bacteriorhodopsin
  • Asolectin
  • Cholesterol
  • Diblock copolymer
  • Biomimetic membranes
  • Phospholipids
  • Lipid membrane


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