ABSTRACT

In this book the basic biophysical mechanisms governing biological

membrane configurations are considered. Themembrane configura-

tion comprises the lateral redistribution of membrane constituents

and the related membrane curvature. As membrane constituents

are small, the resulting curvatures are large. Membranous nanos-

tructures are formed such as nanovesicles (NVs), nanotubules, and

inverted hexagonal stacks. These structures represent an important

pool of biological membranes (Kralj-Iglicˇ, 2012). They are composed

in a way similar to the mother cell and also enclose a cell

interior. Nanotubules explore the surroundings and may become

attached to neighbouring cells. NVs are free to move in body

fluids and travel with the circulation. They can reach distant cells

and interact with them. Nanotubules and NVs transfer matter and

information to other cells. Therefore, they can be considered as

cell-cell communication systems. By fusing with recipient cells,

nanotubules and NVs convey to these cells surface-bound ligands

and receptors (Ratajczak et al., 2006a,b), prion proteins (Fevrier

et al., 2004; Vella et al., 2008), genetic material including RNA and

DNA (Baj-Krzyworzeka et al., 2006; Pisetsky, 2009), and infectious

agents (Coltel et al., 2006; Pelchen-Matthews et al., 2004). It

has been suggested that NVs are involved in cancer metastasis

(Janowska-Wieczorek et al., 2006). Nanotubules and NVs contribute

to tumour progression and the spreading of inflammation and

infection. It is therefore indicated that basic biophysical mechanisms

such as membrane budding and vesiculation play an important

role in health and disease. To manipulate these mechanisms it is

necessary to describe and understand the processes leading to

stable membranous nanostructures.