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Volume 3, Pages 59-74
Mini-Review Article

AFM Imaging of Lipid Domains in Model Membranes

Centre de Biochimie Structurale, CNRS UMR 5048-Univ. Montpellier I, INSERM U554, 29 rue de Navacelles, 34090 Montpellier Cedex, France

Academic Editor: Suzanne Scarlata

Copyright © 2003 Pierre Emmanuel Milhiet et al.


Characterization of the two-dimensional organization of biological membranes is one of the most important issues that remains to be achieved in order to understand their structure-function relationships. According to the current view, biological membranes would be organized in in-plane functional microdomains. At least for one category of them, called rafts, the lateral segregation would be driven by lipid-lipid interactions. Basic questions like the size, the kinetics of formation, or the transbilayer organization of lipid microdomains are still a matter of debate, even in model membranes. Because of its capacity to image structures with a resolution that extends from the molecular to the microscopic level, atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a useful tool for probing the mesoscopic lateral organization of lipid mixtures. This paper reviews AFM studies on lateral lipid domains induced by lipid-lipid interactions in model membranes.