Shear-Induced Membrane Fusion in Viscous Solutions
Journal article, 2014
Large unilamellar lipid vesicles do not normally fuse under fluid shear stress. They might deform and open pores to relax the tension to which they are exposed, but membrane fusion occurring solely due to shear stress has not yet been reported. We present evidence that shear forces in a viscous solution can induce lipid bilayer fusion. The fusion of 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC) liposomes is observed in Couette flow with shear rates above 3000 s(-1) provided that Couette Cell the medium is viscous enough. Liposome samples, prepared at different viscosities using a 0-50 wt % range of sucrose concentration, were studied by dynamic light scattering, lipid fusion assays using Forster resonance energy transfer (FRET), and linear dichroism (LD) spectroscopy. Liposomes in solutions with 40 wt % (or more) sucrose showed lipid fusion under shear forces. These results support the hypothesis that under suitable conditions lipid membranes may fuse in response to mechanical-force-induced stress.