Shape dynamics, lipid hydrodynamics, and the complex viscoelasticity of bilayer membranes [corrected]

Mohammad Rahimi, Marino Arroyo
Physical Review. E, Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics 2012, 86 (1 Pt 1): 011932
Biological membranes are continuously brought out of equilibrium, as they shape organelles, package and transport cargo, or respond to external actions. Even the dynamics of plain lipid membranes in experimental model systems are very complex due to the tight interplay between the bilayer architecture, the shape dynamics, and the rearrangement of the lipid molecules. We formulate and numerically implement a continuum model of the shape dynamics and lipid hydrodynamics, which describes the bilayer by its midsurface and by a lipid density field for each monolayer. The viscoelastic response of bilayers is determined by the stretching and curvature elasticity, and by the inter-monolayer friction and the membrane interfacial shear viscosity. While the bilayer equilibria are well understood theoretically, dynamical calculations have relied on simplified continuum approaches of uncertain transferability, or on molecular simulations reaching very limited length and time scales. Our approach incorporates the main physics, is fully nonlinear, does not assume predefined shapes, and can access a wide range of time and length scales. We validate it with the well understood tether extension. We investigate the tubular lipid transport between cells, the dynamics of bud absorption by a planar membrane, and the fate of a localized lipid density asymmetry in vesicles. These axisymmetric examples bear biological relevance and highlight the diversity of dynamical regimes that bilayers can experience.

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