On mebranes and core/shell structures

Latest PNAS carries a couple of very interesting articles; in the first, H J Lee et al by modelling membranes as fluid-lipid bilayers that are in mechanical equilibrium, show that the the externally applied force, pressure, tension and spontaneous curvature can directly be computed using the shape of the mebrane alone; they also report on their experiments with optical tweezers on vesicles to show how the computation is in agreement with experimental observations:

Recent advances have enabled 3-dimensional reconstructions of biological structures in vivo, ranging in size and complexity from single proteins to multicellular structures. In particular, tomography and confocal microscopy have been exploited to capture detailed 3-dimensional conformations of membranes in cellular processes ranging from viral budding and organelle maintenance to phagocytosis. Despite the wealth of membrane structures available, there is as yet no generic, quantitative method for their interpretation. We propose that by modeling these observed biomembrane shapes as fluid lipid bilayers in mechanical equilibrium, the externally applied forces as well as the pressure, tension, and spontaneous curvature can be computed directly from the shape alone. To illustrate the potential power of this technique, we apply an axial force with optical tweezers to vesicles and explicitly demonstrate that the applied force is equal to the force computed from the membrane conformation.

In the second, J Yin et al tackle what Darwin apprently identified as an issue that can “drive the sanest man mad”, namely, the pattern formation in fruits and vegetables:

Many natural fruits and vegetables adopt an approximately spheroidal shape and are characterized by their distinct undulating topologies. We demonstrate that various global pattern features can be reproduced by anisotropic stress-driven buckles on spheroidal core/shell systems, which implies that the relevant mechanical forces might provide a template underpinning the topological conformation in some fruits and plants. Three dimensionless parameters, the ratio of effective size/thickness, the ratio of equatorial/polar radii, and the ratio of core/shell moduli, primarily govern the initiation and formation of the patterns. A distinct morphological feature occurs only when these parameters fall within certain ranges: In a prolate spheroid, reticular buckles take over longitudinal ridged patterns when one or more parameters become large. Our results demonstrate that some universal features of fruit/vegetable patterns (e.g., those observed in Korean melons, silk gourds, ribbed pumpkins, striped cavern tomatoes, and cantaloupes, etc.) may be related to the spontaneous buckling from mechanical perspectives, although the more complex biological or biochemical processes are involved at deep levels.

Two very interesting pieces; take a look!

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