CRC 235 Emergence of Life

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Fission of Lipid-Vesicles by Membrane Phase Transitions in Thermal Convection

P.W. Kudella 2019 Sci. Rep.


P. W. Kudella, K. Preißinger, M. Morasch, C. F. Dirscherl, D. Braun, A. Wixforth and C. Westerhausen

Scientific Reports


Unilamellar lipid vesicles can serve as model for protocells. We present a vesicle fission mechanism in a thermal gradient under flow in a convection chamber, where vesicles cycle cold and hot regions periodically. Crucial to obtain fission of the vesicles in this scenario is a temperature-induced membrane phase transition that vesicles experience multiple times. We model the temperature gradient of the chamber with a capillary to study single vesicles on their way through the temperature gradient in an external field of shear forces. Starting in the gel-like phase the spherical vesicles are heated above their main melting temperature resulting in a dumbbell-deformation. Further downstream a temperature drop below the transition temperature induces splitting of the vesicles without further physical or chemical intervention. This mechanism also holds for less cooperative systems, as shown here for a lipid alloy with a broad transition temperature width of 8 K. We find a critical tether length that can be understood from the transition width and the locally applied temperature gradient. This combination of a temperature-induced membrane phase transition and realistic flow scenarios as given e.g. in a white smoker enable a fission mechanism that can contribute to the understanding of more advanced protocell cycles.

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