Neutrons and model membranes
Institut Laue-Langevin, 6 rue Jules Horowitz, BP. 156, 38042 Grenoble, France
Revised: 27 September 2012
Published online: 3 December 2012
Current research in membrane protein biophysics highlights the emerging role of lipids in shaping membrane protein function. Cells and organisms have developed sophisticated mechanisms for controlling the lipid composition and many diseases are related to the failure of these mechanisms. One of the recent advances in the field is the discovery of the existence of coexisting micro-domains within a single membrane, important for regulating some signaling pathways. Many important properties of these domains remain poorly characterized. The characterization and analysis of bio-interfaces represent a challenge. Performing measurements on these few nanometer thick, soft, visco-elastic and dynamic systems is close to the limits of the available tools and methods.
Neutron scattering techniques including small angle scattering, diffraction, reflectometry as well as inelastic methods are rapidly developing for these studies and are attracting an increasing number of biologists and biophysicists at large facilities.
This manuscript will review some recent progress in the field and provide perspectives for future developments. It aims at highlighting neutron reflectometry as a versatile method to tackle questions dealing with the understanding and function of biomembranes and their components. The other important scattering methods are only briefly introduced.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2012