Phenomenology based multiscale models as tools to understand cell membrane and organelle morphologies

N Ramakrishnan, Ravi Radhakrishnan
Advances in Planar Lipid Bilayers and Liposomes 2015, 22: 129-175
An intriguing question in cell biology is "how do cells regulate their shape?" It is commonly believed that the observed cellular morphologies are a result of the complex interaction among the lipid molecules (constituting the cell membrane), and with a number of other macromolecules, such as proteins. It is also believed that the common biophysical processes essential for the functioning of a cell also play an important role in cellular morphogenesis. At the cellular scale-where typical dimensions are in the order of micrometers-the effects arising from the molecular scale can either be modeled as equilibrium or non-equilibrium processes. In this chapter, we discuss the dynamically triangulated Monte Carlo technique to model and simulate membrane morphologies at the cellular scale, which in turn can be used to investigate several questions related to shape regulation in cells. In particular, we focus on two specific problems within the framework of isotropic and anisotropic elasticity theories: namely, (i) the origin of complex, physiologically relevant, membrane shapes due to the interaction of the membrane with curvature remodeling proteins, and (ii) the genesis of steady state cellular shapes due to the action of non-equilibrium forces that are generated by the fission and fusion of transport vesicles and by the binding and unbinding of proteins from the parent membrane.

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