Membrane-peptide interaction: Focusing on membrane properties


  • Natalia Wilke UNC, CONICET
  • Dayane S. Alvares UNESP, IBILCE
  • Matías A. Crosio UNC, CONICET
  • Matías A. Viad Arla Foods a.m.b.a. Aarhus, Denmark
  • Mariela R. Monti UNC, CONICET
  • L. Stefanía Vargas Velez UNC, CONICET
  • Sofía V. Amante UNC
  • Pablo E. Scurti Arla Foods a.m.b.a. Aarhus, Denmark
  • Valeria Rulloni Arla Foods a.m.b.a. Aarhus, Denmark


Cellular membranes compartmentalize cells, comprise a permeability barrier, and are the starting place for several signaling cascades and processes in which lateral diffusion of molecules is a key factor. Although it has been shown that organisms adapt the lipid composition of their membranes in order to maintain these in a mainly fluid state, several studies point to the coexistence of regions with different compositions and mechanical properties. In this context, while proteins have been related to solid docks, sterols are accepted as liquid-ordered phase state inducers. Thus, the current model for membranes is a patchwork-like surface, with the different regions being highly variable in size and very dynamic.
Many peptides, like cationic antimicrobial peptides and cell penetrating peptides, target cell membranes. The affinity of these soluble peptides to membranes depends on membrane features such as composition, charge density, compaction, and fluidity. As a consequence of the patchwork-like character of the membrane, regions with a broad spectrum of properties are available to interact with these peptides. Therefore, it is important to know how peptide-membrane interaction depends on membrane properties, and also what happens with the membranes after the interaction.
Here, we summarize our contribution to understanding how the interaction of peptides with membranes is modulated by membrane properties. The influence of the phase state, electrostatics, and chemical composition of the membrane on peptide binding is described using biomimetic systems. The effect of peptide association on membrane properties is also revisited. Finally, possible extrapolations to cells are discussed.

Author Biography

Natalia Wilke, UNC, CONICET

Bachelor of Physics from the Faculty of Exact Sciences, UNLP. PhD in Physics with a focus on Hard Ferromagnets. She conducted postdoctoral research on the topic of Recrystallization of Cold-Rolled Steels. Currently, she is a Principal Researcher at CONICET (National Scientific and Technical Research Council) and a Professor in the Department of Physics at the National University of La Plata. She is responsible for the Magnetism in Oxides (MagOx) group at the Institute of Physics La Plata and the Thin Film Growth Laboratory (IFLP). Her research area covers topics in solid-state physics, such as semiconductor physics, magnetism, and nanotechnology. Her current main focus is the exploration and design of new materials for spintronics, catalysis, and biotechnology applications. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, she led a research project for the development of a viral RNA extraction kit based on magnetic nanoparticles. This project led to the creation of a technology-based company called Magnolia Nanotech SA, of which she is a co-founder.