Controlling the mechanoelasticity of model biomembranes with room-temperature ionic liquids


Room-temperature ionic liquids (RTILs) are a vast class of organic non-aqueous electrolytes whose interaction with biomolecules is receiving great attention for potential applications in bio-nano-technology. Recently, it has been shown that RTILs dispersed at low concentrations at the water-biomembrane interface diffuse into the lipid region of the biomembrane, without disrupting the integrity of the bilayer structure. In this letter, we present the first exploratory study on the effect of absorbed RTILs on the mechanoelasticity of a model biomembrane. Using atomic force microscopy, we found that both the rupture force and the elastic modulus increase upon the insertion of RTILs into the biomembrane. This preliminary result points to the potential use of RTILs to control the mechanoelasticity of cell membranes, opening new avenues for applications in bio-medicine and, more generally, bio-nano-technology. The variety of RTILs offers a vast playground for future studies and potential applications.

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The authors thank Prof. Pietro Ballone and Dr. Jason Kilpatrick for fruitful discussions. A.B. acknowledges the additional support provided by the School of Physics and the School of Chemistry, University College Dublin, Ireland, and the Laboratory for Neutron Scattering, Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland.

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Correspondence to Antonio Benedetto.

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C.R. receives support from the ACRITAS (actuation and characterization at the single bond limit) program under Marie Curie Initial Training Networks grant agreement number 317348. B.J.R. receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement number 644175. A.B. receives support from (i) Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under the Starting Investigator Research Grant 15-SIRG-3538, and from (ii) the European Community under the Marie-Curie Fellowship Grants HYDRA (No. 301463) and PSI- FELLOW (No. 290605). The AFM used in this work was funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI SFI07/IN1/B931).

Conflict of interest

Chiara Rotella declares that she has no conflict of interest. Pallavi Kumari declares that she has no conflict of interest. Brian J. Rodriguez declares that he has no conflict of interest. Suzanne P. Jarvis declares that she has no conflict of interest. Antonio Benedetto declares that he has no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Additional information

This article is part of a Special Issue on ‘Ionic Liquids and Biomolecules’ edited by Antonio Benedetto and Hans-Joachim Galla.

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Rotella, C., Kumari, P., Rodriguez, B.J. et al. Controlling the mechanoelasticity of model biomembranes with room-temperature ionic liquids. Biophys Rev 10, 751–756 (2018).

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