Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Kohli, Punit


As a self-assembled mimetic structure of biological membranes, polydiacetylene liposomes have been studied for the development of platforms for various applications including nano-containers, nano-transporters, and nano-delivery systems for biological-, life- and materials-science applications. Liposomes incorporating amphiphilic polymer poly(10, 12 pentacosadiynoic acid) (PDA) was used as a building block for investigations mimicking cellular reaction and processes at the membrane cell. Changes in local membrane micro-organization and packing as a result of biomolecular and bioparticle reactions and processes at the liposomal membrane were investigated through the use of colorimetric and emission responses of PDA liposomes in solution phase. My dissertation comprises of six chapters. I provide brief overview of each chapter in the following paragraphs: Chapter 1: Introduction. In this chapter, an introduction is given on structure and function of lipid bilayer and multilayer of liposomes from a perspective of shared features with biological membranes. Amphiphilic molecules along with natural lipids at (or higher) critical micelle concentration self-assemble in aqueous medium, thereby, forming a lipid bilayer or multilayer to reduce the free energy of the system. When one of the components of the lipid bilayer is a polymerizable monomer, micelles/liposomes with enhanced mechanical and chemical stability are achieved. The lipid bilayer of liposomes is a boundary that includes at least three different regions: inside aqueous cavity, hydrophobic membrane zone, and membrane-aqueous interfaces. The membrane surface is available for further functionalization. In general, all three regions of the liposomes are utilized for both fundamental and applied studies. For example, the PDA liposomes have been employed for biosensing, drug/protein/nucleic acid transport and delivery and target release, and various probing cellular-like reactions and processes at the membranes. Here, in this chapter, literature on PDA was reviewed for a time period of 2008-2015. Furthermore, emphasis was given to application of PDA liposomes as (bio) sensing elements utilizing colorimetric, fluorescence, and FRET mechanisms. Chapter 2. Polydiacetylene (PDA) liposomes have been accepted as attractive colorimetric bionanosensors. The molecular recognition elements, either embedded within the liposomal membrane or covalent bound at the membrane surface, are available for interaction with biological and chemical analytes. Usually, PDA liposomes perform transduction activity through perturbation of the conjugated polymer backbone, which provides a colorimetric change in solution or solid-state phase. Here, we report that trapping self-quenched fluorescent specie within inner cavity of the liposomes is a simple and effective analytical tool for evaluating biomolecular binding events at the membrane surface. The release of fluorophores in response to the membrane binding event led to amplified emission signal which was utilized for probing reactions at the membrane surface that mimics reactions occurring at the cellular membrane surface. Specifically, a covalent binding on enzyme-substrate reaction resulted in a change of membrane fluidity, thereby releasing inner fluorophore content of the PDA liposomes. Fluorescent markers were loaded at or higher self-quenched concentration in the cavity of the liposome. Amplification of the fluorescence intensity was positively correlated with the concentration of protein added in the solution. The bilayer fluidity alteration also appears to depend on the molecular weight of the protein bound at the membrane. Overall, binding of protein with membrane promoted changes in the local PDA membrane organization and packing that enhanced the membrane permeability. The encapsulated content therefore leaked through “transient pores” formed in the membrane yielding substantial emission amplification. Chapter 3. Inspired by stability of the PDA liposomes, surface functionalization with a variety of molecules and loading within bilayer and inner cavity of the liposomes, we utilized liposomes as biocatalytical nanoreactors. Removable template molecules were embedded in the lipid bilayer and active protein encapsulated in the internal cavity was used for studying the transport properties of liposomes through substrate-enzyme reactions. Detergent Triton X-100 was used to remove a small portion of lipid and template molecules embedded in the membrane. The removal of lipid/template molecules not only affected the membrane fluidity but also provided transient pores in the membrane, allowing transport of substrate for enzymatic oxidation of glucose and 2-deoxy-glucose. Three important biological-relevant properties of cellular membrane: transport, bioavailability, and bio-reactivity of enzyme and substrate were studied. We found that enzyme molecules retained their reactivity when encapsulated within the aqueous inner cavity of the PDA liposomes, and that their activity was comparable to that in the bulk solution. Chapter 4. This chapter introduces studies on (at least partially) answering important questions how and if anchored enzyme activity at the liposome surface is affected through limited diffusion and spatial constraints. A further crucial question was investigated what effect of protein binding at the surface of the liposomes to enzymatic activity was. These relevant questions were important for increasing our fundamental knowledge related to reactions, interactions, and transport processes in biological cellular systems. A functionalized liposome system containing enzyme (Trypsin) covalently attached at the PDA liposome surface was synthesized. Using PDA liposomes as an immobilization scaffold, we evaluated and compared the cleavage behaviors of Trypsin in either immobilized at the membrane surface or in the free form. The covalent binding interaction and tryptic cleavage at the membrane-water interface was monitored by UV-vis and fluorescent spectroscopy, fluorescent anisotropy and spectro-micro-imaging. Trypsin binding at the membrane appeared to be significantly affected the enzymatic activity of the bound enzyme as seen from colorimetric response of the PDA liposomes. Chapter 5. Hierarchical structures support structures with new functionalities, therefore, advances in fabrication and characterization of biomimetic systems based on biological building blocks may present substantial potential rewards in material science. We take advantage of non-covalent forces known in biology for creating spatial organization by assembly tobacco mosaic virus-liposome polymeric hierarchical systems through biotin-streptavidin linkages. The advantage of using the biological thin rods such as TMV is that it can span the whole liposomal membrane allowing us to create microscopic hinge structures that connected liposomes. Our findings through electron and fluorescence microscopy confirmed that SA-TMV motif was able to stay inserted within the lipid bilayer of liposomes which yielded hierarchical structures after binding with Bt-liposomes. These hierarchical structures may find potential applications in targeted load (drug/protein/DNA) delivery, investigations involving virus-cell interactions, and sensing of virus particles. Chapter 6. Conclusions and Future work The present work in this dissertation utilized exploitation of biological self-assembly of small lipid molecules and larger biological-like motifs for enhancing our understanding of reactions and processes occurring at the cellular membrane surface. Overall the following four major studies were accomplished; 1. Sensing through amplified delivery, 2. Triggering an encapsulated bioreactor system at nanometric size, 3. Holding active biological elements when liposomes perform an attachment matrix, 4. Formation of hierarchical structures promoted by self-assembling of biological motifs with mimickers of cell membrane From our findings by mimicking the lipid bilayer of cell structures through liposomal membrane future work holds different ways to contribute in enhancing fundamental understanding of biological behavior. Active transport is an important function of all natural cells, playing important roles in intercellular communication. Liposomes composed of natural and polymerizable lipids may allow investigation involving exocytosis, formation of filopodia, vesicle fusion, budding and reproduction of neural synapses. Our liposome system may also mediate a broader range of highly selective and sensitive detection and sensing of cellular reactions and processes in physiological condition. I hope that this work in collaboration with multiple PIs will contribute to the fields at the interface of biology and material science.




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