Royal Society Publishing

Evidence for two-dimensional solitary sound waves in a lipid controlled interface and its implications for biological signalling

Shamit Shrivastava, Matthias F. Schneider


Biological membranes by virtue of their elastic properties should be capable of propagating localized perturbations analogous to sound waves. However, the existence and the possible role of such waves in communication in biology remain unexplored. Here, we report the first observations of two-dimensional solitary elastic pulses in lipid interfaces, excited mechanically and detected by FRET. We demonstrate that the nonlinearity near a maximum in the susceptibility of the lipid monolayer results in solitary pulses that also have a threshold for excitation. These experiments clearly demonstrate that the state of the interface regulates the propagation of pulses both qualitatively and quantitatively. Finally, we elaborate on the striking similarity of the observed phenomenon to nerve pulse propagation and a thermodynamic basis of cell signalling in general.

  • Received January 28, 2014.
  • Accepted May 19, 2014.
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