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Carbon Nanotubes Mediate Fusion of Lipid Vesicles

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Bhaskara,  Ramachandra
Department of Theoretical Biophysics, Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Max Planck Society;

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Linker,  Stephanie M.
Department of Theoretical Biophysics, Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Max Planck Society;

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Vögele,  Martin
Department of Theoretical Biophysics, Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Max Planck Society;

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Köfinger,  Jürgen
Department of Theoretical Biophysics, Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Max Planck Society;

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Hummer,  Gerhard
Department of Theoretical Biophysics, Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Max Planck Society;
Institute for Biophysics, Goethe University Frankfurt, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany;

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Citation

Bhaskara, R., Linker, S. M., Vögele, M., Köfinger, J., & Hummer, G. (2017). Carbon Nanotubes Mediate Fusion of Lipid Vesicles. ACS Nano, 11(2), 1273-1280. doi:10.1021/acsnano.6b05434.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-279F-1
Abstract
The fusion of lipid membranes is opposed by high energetic barriers. In living organisms, complex protein machineries carry out this biologically essential process. Here we show that membrane-spanning carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can trigger spontaneous fusion of small lipid vesicles. In coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations, we find 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.