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Nonenzymatic biomimetic remodeling of phospholipids in synthetic liposomes


Cell membranes have a vast repertoire of phospholipid species whose structures can be dynamically modified by enzymatic remodeling of acyl chains and polar head groups. Lipid remodeling plays important roles in membrane biology and dysregulation can lead to disease. Although there have been tremendous advances in creating artificial membranes to model the properties of native membranes, a major obstacle has been developing straightforward methods to mimic lipid membrane remodeling. Stable liposomes are typically kinetically trapped and are not prone to exchanging diacylphospholipids. Here, we show that reversible chemoselective reactions can be harnessed to achieve nonenzymatic spontaneous remodeling of phospholipids in synthetic membranes. Our approach relies on transthioesterification/acyl shift reactions that occur spontaneously and reversibly between tertiary amides and thioesters. We demonstrate exchange and remodeling of both lipid acyl chains and head groups. Using our synthetic model system we demonstrate the ability of spontaneous phospholipid remodeling to trigger changes in vesicle spatial organization, composition, and morphology as well as recruit proteins that can affect vesicle curvature. Membranes capable of chemically exchanging lipid fragments could be used to help further understand the specific roles of lipid structure remodeling in biological membranes.