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The role of membrane viscosity in the dynamics of fluid membranes

TitleThe role of membrane viscosity in the dynamics of fluid membranes
Publication TypePreprint
AuthorsArroyo, M, DeSimone, A, Heltai, L
Document NumberSISSA;55/2010/M

Fluid membranes made out of lipid bilayers are the fundamental separation structure in eukaryotic cells. Many physiological processes rely on dramatic shape and topological changes (e.g. fusion, fission) of fluid membrane systems. Fluidity is key to the versatility and constant reorganization of lipid bilayers. Here, we study the role of the membrane intrinsic viscosity, arising from the friction of the lipid molecules as they rearrange to accommodate shape changes, in the dynamics of morphological changes of fluid vesicles. In particular, we analyze the competition between the membrane viscosity and the viscosity of the bulk fluid surrounding the vesicle as the dominant dissipative mechanism. We consider the relaxation dynamics of fluid vesicles put in an out-of-equilibrium state, but conclusions can be drawn regarding the kinetics or power consumption in regulated shape changes in the cell. On the basis of numerical calculations, we find that the dynamics arising from the membrane viscosity are qualitatively different from the dynamics arising from the bulk viscosity. When these two dissipation mechanisms are put in competition, we find that for small vesicles the membrane dissipation dominates, with a relaxation time that scales as the size of the vesicle to the power 2. For large vesicles, the bulk dissipation dominates, and the exponent in the relaxation time vs. size relation is 3.

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