Biophysics of membranes and biological nanostructures

Subject description

Thermodynamic description of systems with a large number of particles: phase sums, entropy, free energy, chemical potential, electrochemical potential, osmotic pressure.

Composition of biological membranes: lipid molecules, proteins, glycoproteins, membrane skeletons, forms of lipids and proteins, electrical properties of lipids and proteins.

Self-organisation of lipids and proteins: linear aggregates of membranous components, aggregation of lipid molecules in mycelia and lipid double layers, biologically important non-lammelular lipid phases, formation of flexible membranous nano-domains, lateral phase separation of membranous components, aggregation of nanodomains, formation and stability of membranous nanotubes.

Elastic properties of membranes: deformations in levels of a membrane, flexible energy, influence of forms of membrane components and direct interactions between membranous components in elastic properties of membranes, lateral distribution of membranous components and elastic properties of membranes, elastic properties of membranes and forms of cells and organelles, influence of cytoskeleton on forms of cells.

Electric properties of membranes: electric double layer, Poisson-Boltzmann theory of electric double layer, Gouy-Chapman model of electric double layer, free energy of electric double layer, influence of final size of molecule and distribution of charge within individual molecules on the properties of an electrical double layer, influence of size and distribution of electrical charge of a membrane on transport of electrified molecules through a membrane, bonds and adhesion of electrified molecules on the surface of a membrane.

Electrostatic interaction between membrane surfaces: influence of components of solvents on the interaction between membranes, influence of electrical properties of molecules in solvents on the interaction between membranes, adhesion of membranes.

Transport and communication between cells and organelles: mechanisms of micro- and nano-vesiculation, influence of electrical properties of membranes and solvens on the vesiculation of membranes, endocytosis, exocytosis, fusion of vesicles, encapsulation of nano-particles and DNA, influence of detergents and nano-particles on vesiculation and forms of membrane, mechanisms of stability and formations of membrane nanotubes and their role in the transport of substances between cells and between cell organelles. Microvesiculation of membranes and its role in spreading tumours and creation of blood clots. Mechanisms of creation and stability of membrane pores.

The subject is taught in programs

Objectives and competences

Students are familiarised with biophysical description of biological membranes with the aid of established models of electrostatic and elastic properties of membranes and membranous micro- and macro-nanostructures. Selected most recent results in the field of biophysics of membranous nanostructures will be presented.


Educational aims: The basic educational aim is to deepen knowledge for work with cell membranes, cells and artificial lipid systems and to obtain knowledge in the field of research into the influence of various substances, such as fats, detergents and nanoparticles, on the stability of membranes, membrane vesicules, inter-cellular communication and pathological states of membranes and cells.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, seminars, consultations, project/seminar work.

Expected study results

To qualify the candidate for carrying out the mentioned research, the results of which will make an important contribution to basic and applicative science in the field of studies of membrane properties and membrane vesiculation and communication between cells, in connection with the study of various disease states on the level of membranes and cells, such as the spread of tumours and the creation of blood clots.

Basic sources and literature

1. A. Iglič, V. Kralj-Iglič, D. Drobne:  Nanostructures in biological systems : theory and applications. Singapore: Pan Stanford; Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2015. ISBN 978-981-4303-43-9. [COBISS.SI-ID 11076436]

2. J. Israelachvili: Intermolecular and Surface Forces, Academic Press ltd., London, vsakokratna nova izdaja.

3. T.L. Hill: An Introduction to Statistical Thermodynamics, Dover Publications, New York, USA, 1986.

4. aktualni znanstveni članki iz področja, ki jih sproti določijo izvajalci predmeta.

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