Membranes are prevalent in biological systems, where they perform functions as boundaries, barriers, scaffolds, recognition interface and functional regulators of the complex biological machinery through modulation exploiting the properties of fluid interfaces. The most ubiquitous such liquid-liquid interface is the lipid bilayer which separates a mostly fluid hydrophobic core from two aqueous interfaces. The rich phase behavior and nanoscale dimensions in combination with the possibility of large lateral extension of lipid membranes are responsible for a large fraction of the most advanced hierarchical organization of structure and function in nature.
The DNBT and BIMat have long-standing expertise in the study of bacterial membranes and in vitro assembled mimics for applications. This includes expertise not only in lipid membrane research, but especially world-leading expertise in the study of S-layer protein membranes on bacteria and in model systems. Despite a tremendous amount of attention the mechanisms behind S-layer protein assembly, all its biological roles and potential roles in applications are far from exhaustively explored. In particular, the association of polymers to both protein and lipid membranes, is still a rather unexplored field both from a biophysical and micorbiological point of view. For both supported lipid membraned and S-layers we take particular interest in their nanoscale dimensions and the interactions with nanoscale systems of self-assembled membranes. Thus, the creation of nanopatterned inorganic and polymer-functionalized substrates with the assembly of such mebranes is of particular interest. We expect development of nanoscale patterned membranes to have a range of important applications. BIMat aims to focus its efforts in the membrane field on engineered supported lipid and S-layer systems as cell surface mimics to investigate cell-cell interactions. BIMat has methods to assemble both S-layers and lipid membranes on solid planar substrates and on microscale colloids, where their detailed composition and interactions can be studied with high temporal and spatial resolution using state-of-the-art surface sensitive, microscopy and colloidal techniques.
We will develop new molecularly engineered such membrane interfaces to study the role of glycosylation patterns and mobility (mutivalency) on cell and bacteria adhesion, proliferation, tissue and biofilm formation. To complement the development of new membrane mimetic systems we will further develop our toolbox of experimental techniques to study membrane assembly, function and interaction with cells and bacteria.
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