Molecular Biomechanics Controls Protein Mixing and Segregation in Adherent Membranes
International Journal of Molecular Sciences
Cells interact with their environment by forming complex structures involving a multitude of proteins within assemblies in the plasma membrane. Despite the omnipresence of these assemblies, a number of questions about the correlations between the organisation of domains and the biomechanical properties of the involved proteins, namely their length, flexibility and affinity, as well as about the coupling to the elastic, fluctuating membrane, remain open. Here we address these issues by
... issues by developing an effective Kinetic Monte Carlo simulation to model membrane adhesion. We apply this model to a typical experiment in which a cell binds to a functionalized solid supported bilayer and use two ligand-receptor pairs to study these couplings. We find that differences in affinity and length of proteins forming adhesive contacts result in several characteristic features in the calculated phase diagrams. One such feature is mixed states occurring even with proteins with length differences of 10 nm. Another feature are stable nanodomains with segregated proteins appearing on time scales of cell experiments, and for biologically relevant parameters. Furthermore, we show that macroscopic ring-like patterns can spontaneously form as a consequence of emergent protein fluxes. The capacity to form domains is captured by an order parameter that is founded on the virial coefficients for the membrane mediated interactions between bonds, which allow us to collapse all the data. These findings show that taking into account the role of the membrane allows us to recover a number of experimentally observed patterns. This is an important perspective in the context of explicit biological systems, which can now be studied in significant detail.