Colloidal adhesion of phospholipid vesicles: High-resolution reflection interference contrast microscopy and theory

Ning Fang, Vincent Chan, Kai Tak Wan, Hai Quan Mao, Kam W. Leong

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High-resolution reflection interference contrast microscopy (HR-RICM) was developed for probing the deformation and adhesion of phospholipid vesicles induced by colloidal forces on solid surfaces. The new technique raised the upper limit of the measured membrane-substrate separation from 1 to 4.5 μm and improved the spatial resolution of the heterogeneous contact zones. It was applied to elucidate the effects of wall thickness, pH and osmotic stress on the non-specific adhesion of giant unilamellar vesicles (ULV) and multilamellar vesicles (MLV) on fused silica substrates. By simultaneous cross-polarization light microscopy and HR-RICM measurements, it was observed that ULV with the wall thickness of a single bilayer would be significantly deformed in its equilibrium state on the substrate as the dimension of its adhesive-cohesive zone was 29% higher than the theoretical value of a rigid sphere with the same diameter. Besides, electrostatic interaction was shown as a significant driving force for vesicle adhesions since the reduction in pH significantly increased the degree of deformation of adhering ULV and heterogeneity of the adhesion discs. The degree of MLV deformation on the solid surfaces was significantly less than that of ULV. When the wall thickness of vesicle increased, the dimension of contact zone was reduced dramatically due to the increase of membrane bending modulus. Most important, the adhesion strength of colloidal adhesion approached that of specific adhesion. Finally, the increase of osmotic stress led to the collapse of adhering vesicles on the non-deformable substrate and raised the area of adhesive contact zone. To interpret these results better, the equilibrium deformation of adhering vesicle was modeled as a truncated sphere and the adhesion energy was calculated with a new theory.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)347-362
Number of pages16
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2002


  • Adhesion
  • Biophysics
  • Colloids
  • Microscopy
  • Theory


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