Controlling the internal structure of giant unilamellar vesicles by means of reversible temperature dependent sol-gel transition of internalized poly(N-isopropyl acrylamide)
Journal article, 2005
In this work, we present preparation and basic applications of lipid-bilayer-enclosed picoliter volumes (microcontainers) of solutions of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm). Giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) were prepared from phospholipids using a standard swelling procedure and subsequently surface immobilized. Clear, slightly viscous solutions of PNIPAAm of varying concentration in aqueous buffer were directly pressure-microinjected into the GUVs, using a submicrometer-sized, pointed capillary. The GUV was subjected to changing temperature over a 21-40 °C range. The typical phase transition of the polymeric material upon heating and cooling across the lower critical solution temperature was followed using optical microscopy and shown to be reversible over multiple sequential heating/cooling cycles without compromising the integrity of the GUV membrane. Fluorescent, carboxylic acid modified 200 nm latex beads, co-injected with the PNIPAAm solution, were temperature-reversibly immobilized during the phase transition, practically freezing the Brownian motion of the entrapped particles in the volume. Furthermore, a co-injected water soluble fluorescent polysaccharide - dye conjugate was shown not to migrate from the aqueous phase into the hydrophobic polymer part upon heating, whereas the fluorescent beads were completely but reversibly immobilized in the hydrophobic domains of dense polymer agglomerates. The system reported here provides a feasible method for the reversible stabilization and solidification of GUV interior volumes, e.g., as a micrometer-sized model system for controlled drug release.