Interfacial stability

  • W. T. Coakley
  • D. Gallez
Conference paper
Part of the Springer Series in Biophysics book series (BIOPHYSICS, volume 5)


Aspects of the behaviour of cell plasma membranes, either singly or as pairs in close apposition, resemble the behaviour of thin fluid films of low interfacial tension. Modification of a low interfacial tension thin film or of its environment can destabilise the film. Such destabilisation leads either to a transition from one state to another stable state of different morphology or to breakup of the film to give droplets. Theoretical treatments of the dependence of the stability of thin films on surface charge density, environmental ionic strength, electrical stress in the film, viscous and mechanical properties of the film and presence of cross-linking polymers are presented. The results of experimental studies of destabilization of erythrocyte membranes are reviewed to give (i) growth of spatially periodic disturbances on the membrane leading to vesicle formation or (ii) spatially periodic contact between cells exposed to a variety of adhesive polymers, or to electric fields. Some quantitative agreement between theory and experiment is obtained. Examples of interfacial instability involving cell surfaces in a number of in vivo situations are discussed.


Electric Field Pulse Acrosome Reaction Disjoin Pressure Periodic Contact Interfacial Instability 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. T. Coakley
    • 1
  • D. Gallez
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Pure and Appl. Biol.Univ. of Wales Coll. of CardiffCardiffUK
  2. 2.Service de Chim. PhysUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium

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