Journal for Biophysical Chemistry

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Open Access

Structural characterization of an elevated lipid bilayer obtained by stepwise functionalization of a self-assembled alkenyl silane film

  • Christian Daniel1,
  • Karen E. Sohn2,
  • Thomas E. Mates2,
  • Edward J. Kramer3,
  • Joachim O. Rädler4,
  • Erich Sackmann4,
  • Bert Nickel4 and
  • Luisa Andruzzi4Email author

Received: 26 July 2007

Accepted: 6 September 2007

Published: 2 October 2007


This work reports a novel tethered lipid membrane supported on silicon oxide providing an improved model cell membrane. There is an increasing need for robust solid supported fluid model membranes that can be easily deposited on soft cushions. In such architecture the space between the membrane and the substrate should be tunable in the nanometer range. For this purpose a SiO2 surface was functionalized with poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-lipid tethers and further modified with poly(ethylene glycol) making a biologically passivated substrate available for lipid bilayer deposition. First, a short chain self-assembled alkenyl silane film was oxidized to yield terminal COOH groups and then functionalized with amino-terminated PEG-lipids via N-hydroxysuccinimide chemistry. The functionalized silane film was then additionally passivated by functionalization of unreacted COOH groups with amino-terminated PEG of variable chain length. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) analysis of dry films, carried out near the C 1s ionization edge to characterize chemical groups formed in the near-surface region, confirmed binding of PEG-lipid tethers to the silane film. XPS further indicated that backfilling with PEG caused the lipid tails to stick up above the PEG layer which was confirmed by the x-ray reflectivity measurements. Lipid vesicle fusion on these surfaces in the presence of excess water resulted in the formation of supported membranes characterized by very high homogeneity and long range mobility, as confirmed by fluorescence bleaching experiments. Even after repeated drying-hydrating cycles, these robust surfaces provided good templates for high fluidity elevated membranes. X-ray reflectivity measurements of the tethered membranes, with a resolution of 0.6 nm in water, showed that these fluid membranes are elevated up to 8 nm above the silicon oxide surface.