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Solubilization kinetics determines the pulsatory dynamics of lipid vesicles exposed to surfactant
We establish a biophysical model for the dynamics of lipid vesicles exposed to surfactants. The solubilization of the lipid membrane due to the insertion of surfactant molecules induces a reduction of membrane surface area at almost constant vesicle volume. This results in a rate-dependent increase of membrane tension and leads to the opening of a micron-sized pore. We show that solubilization kinetics due to surfactants can determine the regimes of pore dynamics: either the pores open and reseal within a second (short-lived pore), or the pore stays open up to a few minutes (long-lived pore). First, we validate our model with previously published experimental measurements of pore dynamics. Then, we investigate how the solubilization kinetics and membrane properties affect the dynamics of the pore and construct a phase diagram for short and long-lived pores. Finally, we examine the dynamics of sequential pore openings and show that cyclic short-lived pores occur at a period inversely proportional to the solubilization rate. By deriving a theoretical expression for the cycle period, we provide an analytic tool to measure the solubilization rate of lipid vesicles by surfactants. Our findings shed light on some fundamental biophysical mechanisms that allow simple cell-like structures to sustain their integrity against environmental stresses, and have the potential to aid the design of vesicle-based drug delivery systems.
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