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Carbon nanotubes mediate fusion of lipid vesicles

January 2017. The fusion of lipid membranes is opposed by high energetic barriers. In living organisms, complex protein machineries carry out this biologically essential process. Frankfurt scientists showed that membrane-spanning carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can trigger spontaneous fusion of small lipid vesicles. In coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations, they found that a CNT bridging between two vesicles locally perturbs their lipid structure. Their outer leaflets merge as the CNT pulls lipids out of the membranes, creating an hourglass-shaped fusion intermediate with still intact inner leaflets. As the CNT moves away from the symmetry axis connecting the vesicle centers, the inner leaflets merge, forming a pore that completes fusion. The distinct mechanism of CNT-mediated membrane fusion may be transferable, providing guidance in the development of fusion agents, e.g. for the targeted delivery of drugs or nucleic acids. More ...


Gerhard Hummer, Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, gerhard.hummer@biophys.mpg.de


Bhaskara RM, Linker SM, Vögele M, Köfinger J, Hummer G (2017) Carbon nanotubes mediate fusion of lipid vesicles. ACS Nano, published online 19 January 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.6b05434


Cluster of Excellence Macromolecular Complexes, Frankfurt am Main, Germany