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Modeling membrane nanotube morphology: the role of heterogeneity in composition and material properties

By Haleh Alimohamadi, Ben Ovryn, Padmini Rangamani

Posted 20 Jul 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/373811

Membrane nanotubes have been identified as dynamic structures for cells to connect over long distances. Nanotubes typically appear as thin and cylindrical tubes, but they may also have a beaded architecture along the tube. In this paper, we study the role of membrane mechanics in governing the architecture of these tubes and show that the formation of bead-like structures along the nanotubes can result from local heterogeneities in the membrane either due to protein aggregation or due to membrane composition. We present numerical results that predict how membrane properties, protein density, and local tension compete to create a phase space that governs the morphology of a nanotube. We also find that there is an energy barrier that prevents two beads from fusing. These results suggest that the membrane-protein interaction, membrane composition, and membrane tension closely govern the tube radius, number of beads, and the bead morphology.

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