Wrapping anisotropic microgel particles in lipid membranes: Effects of particle shape and membrane rigidity

Xiaoyan Liu*, Thorsten Auth*, Nabanita Hazra, Morten Frendø Ebbesen, Jonathan Brewer, Gerhard Gompper, Jérôme J. Crassous, Emma Sparr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Cellular engulfment and uptake of macromolecular assemblies or nanoparticles via endocytosis can be associated to both healthy and disease-related biological processes as well as delivery of drug nanoparticles and potential nanotoxicity of pollutants. Depending on the physical and chemical properties of the system, the adsorbed particles may remain at the membrane surface, become wrapped by the membrane, or translocate across the membrane through an endocytosis-like process. In this paper, we address the question of how the wrapping of colloidal particles by lipid membranes can be controlled by the shape of the particles, the particle–membrane adhesion energy, the membrane phase behavior, and the membrane-bending rigidity. We use a model system composed of soft core–shell microgel particles with spherical and ellipsoidal shapes, together with phospholipid membranes with varying composition. Confocal microscopy data clearly demonstrate how tuning of these basic properties of particles and membranes can be used to direct wrapping and membrane deformation and the organization of the particles at the membrane. The deep-wrapped states are more favorable for ellipsoidal than for spherical microgel particles of similar volume. Theoretical calculations for fixed adhesion strength predict the opposite behavior—wrapping becomes more difficult with increasing aspect ratio. The comparison with the experiments implies that the microgel adhesion strength must increase with increasing particle stretching. Considering the versatility offered by microgels systems to be synthesized with different shapes, functionalizations, and mechanical properties, the present findings further inspire future studies involving nanoparticle–membrane interactions relevant for the design of novel biomaterials and therapeutic applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2217534120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Issue number30
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 25. Jul 2023


  • anisotropic microgels
  • giant unilamellar vesicles
  • lipid membrane
  • membrane adhesion
  • wrapping


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