My project encompasses chemistry, physics and biology. I am using my surface chemistry background to study the interfacial interactions occurring at lipid bilayers using optical microscopy techniques. The physical chemistry occurring at the surface of a cell drives its functionality and many cellular processes. By better understanding the interactions between lipids and proteins at the surface of a modelled cell membrane I hope to illuminate the underpinnings of these interfacially driven processes.
My project includes
Forming bilayers (giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs), droplet interface bilayers (DIBs)) of varying lipid
composition Using optical microscopy techniques to characterise and quantify the bilayers formed and their lamellarity/geometry. Characterising and quantifying lipid phase separation and the formation of lipid domains. Exploring how proteins diffuse and insert into a modelled cell membrane given different lipid composition.
- Surfactants, lipids as surfactants, surfactant
- Formation of lipid bilayers
- Microscopy techniques for imaging lipid bilayers
- Lipid portioning, phase separation, formation of lipid domains/rafts
- Lipid diffusion on the cell membrane
- Diffusion and insertion of proteins into/across the cell membrane
Shedding new light on single protein-lipid membrane interactions
The interaction between proteins and lipids at the cell membrane is a fundamental process underpinning key functions in biology and the maintenance of life. The
organization of membrane proteins into complexes and their segregation in lipid domains is known to influence processes such as intracellular transport, cell division and signal transduction. Despite the widespread importance of such systems, many key questions are still unanswered, including how do proteins diffuse within membranes in space and time? Where do they partition, depending on the heterogeneous lipid membrane chemical composition and curvature? How is the protein function modulated by the lipid
environment? How is the lipid membrane local composition and curvature affected by the protein (an interplay often overlooked).
This project will contribute to the development and application of model membrane systems and measurements methods able to answer these questions. A
specific experimental focus will be to produce suspended synthetic lipid membranes in the form of giant unilamellar
vescicles (GUV), with varying lipid chemical composition resulting in lipid partitioning and phase separated domains. The formation of these synthetic membranes will be characterised by optical microscopy methods to quantify the GUV lamellarity and the existence of domains. After
GUV fabrication, the project will address methods to insert relevant proteins into these synthetic membranes, while maintaining protein function. The ultimate goal will be to study the diffusion and partitioning of single proteins and
how the lipid membrane is affected by the protein, using cutting-edge optical microscopy techniques.