Membrane tubulation in lipid vesicles triggered by the local application of calcium ions

Baharan Ali Doosti, Weria Pezeshkian, Dennis Skjøth Bruhn, John Hjort Ipsen, Himanshu Khandelia, Gavin D M Jeffries, Tatsiana Lobovkina

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Experimental and theoretical studies on ion-lipid interactions, predict that binding of calcium ions to cell membranes leads to macroscopic mechanical effects and membrane remodeling. Herein, we provide experimental evidence that a point-source of Ca2+ acting upon a negatively charged membrane, generates spontaneous curvature and triggers the formation of tubular protrusions that point away from the ion source. This behavior is rationalized by strong binding of the divalent cations to the surface of the charged bilayer which effectively neutralizes the surface charge density of outer leaflet of the bilayer. The mismatch in the surface charge density of the two leaflets, leads to non-zero spontaneous curvature. We probe this mismatch through the use of molecular dynamics simulations, and validate that calcium ion binding to a lipid membrane is sufficient to generate inward spontaneous curvature, bending the membrane. Additionally, we demonstrate that the formed tubular protrusions can be translated along the vesicle surface in a controlled manner by repositioning the site of localized Ca2+ exposure. The findings demonstrate lipid membrane remodeling in response to local chemical gradients and offer potential insights into the cell membrane behavior under conditions of varying calcium ion concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number41
Pages (from-to)11010-11017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Journal Article


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