We have succeeded in controlling tubular membrane formations in binary giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) using a simple temperature changing between the homogeneous one-phase region and the two-phase coexistence region. The binary GUV is composed of inverse-cone (bulky hydrocarbon chains and a small headgroup) and cylinder-shaped lipids. When the temperature was set in the two-phase coexistence region, the binary GUV had a spherical shape with solidlike domains. By increasing the temperature to the homogeneous one-phase region, the excess area created by the chain melting of the lipid produced tubes inside the GUV. The tubes had a radius on the micrometer scale and were stable in the one-phase region. When we again decreased the temperature to the two-phase coexisting region, the tubes regressed and the GUVs recovered their phase-separated spherical shape. We infer that the tubular formation was based on the mechanical balance of the vesicle membrane (spontaneous tension) coupled with the asymmetric distribution of the inverse-cone-shaped lipids between the inner and outer leaflets of the vesicle (lipid sorting).
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