Activation energy and force fields during topological transitions of fluid lipid vesicles

Mirko Gallo, Matteo Bottacchiari, Marco Bussoletti, Carlo Massimo Casciola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Topological transitions of fluid lipid membranes are fundamental processes for cell life. For example, they are required for endo- and exocytosis or to enable neurotransmitters to cross the neural synapses. Here, inspired by the idea that fusion and fission proteins could have evolved in Nature in order to carry out a minimal work expenditure, we evaluate the minimal free energy pathway for the transition between two spherical large unilamellar vesicles and a dumbbell-shaped one. To address the problem, we propose and successfully use a Ginzburg-Landau type of free energy, which allows us to uniquely describe without interruption the whole, full-scale topological change. We also compute the force fields needed to overcome the involved energy barriers. The obtained forces are in excellent agreement, in terms of intensity, scale, and spatial localization with experimental data on typical fission protein systems, whereas they suggest the presence of additional features in fusion proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Article number283
JournalCommunications physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support is acknowledged from the 2020 Sapienza Large Project: Dynamics of Biological and Artificial Lipid Bilayer Membranes. Concerning computational resources, we acknowledge PRACE for awarding us access to Marconi’s successor at CINECA, Italy, PRACE 23rd call project No. 2021240074; DECI 17 SOLID project for resource Navigator based in Portugal at from the PRACE aisbl; CINECA award under the ISCRA initiative, for the availability of high-performance computing resources and support (ISCRA-B FHDAS, ISCRA-C ToTraVes).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Membrane biophysics
  • Biological physics


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