Combined depletion and electrostatic forces in polymer-induced membrane adhesion : a theoretical model

A. Raudino, M. Pannuzzo, M.E.J. Karttunen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


We develop a semi-quantitative analytical theory to describe adhesion between two identical planar charged surfaces embedded in a polymer-containing electrolytesolution.Polymer chains are uncharged and differ from the solvent by their lower dielectric permittivity. The solution mimics physiological fluids: It contains 0.1 M of monovalent ions and a small number of divalent cations that form tight bonds with the headgroups of charged lipids. The components have heterogeneous spatial distributions. The model was derived self-consistently by combining: (a) a Poisson-Boltzmann like equation for the charge densities, (b) a continuum mean-field theory for the polymer profile, (c) a solvation energy forcing the ions toward the polymer-poor regions, and (d) surface interactions of polymers and electrolytes. We validated the theory via extensive coarse-grained Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations. The results confirm our analytical model and reveal interesting details not detected by the theory. At high surface charges, polymer chains are mainly excluded from the gap region, while the concentration of ions increases. The model shows a strong coupling between osmotic forces, surface potential and salting-out effects of the slightly polar polymer chains. It highlights some of the key differences in the behaviour of monomeric and polymeric mixed solvents and their responses to Coulomb interactions. Our main findings are: (a) the onset of long-ranged ion-induced polymer depletion force that increases with surface charge density and (b) a polymer-modified repulsive Coulomb force that increases with surface charge density. Overall, the system exhibits homeostatic behaviour, resulting in robustness against variations in the amount of charges. Applications and extensions of the model are briefly discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)055101-1/16
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Combined depletion and electrostatic forces in polymer-induced membrane adhesion : a theoretical model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this