Detergent solubilization of lipid bilayers: A balance of driving forces

Dov Lichtenberg, Hasna Ahyayauch, Alicia Alonso, Félix M. Goñi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Although detergents are routine tools in biomembrane research, their use remains empirical. We propose that solubilization is the result of a balance between two parameters: (i) the energy associated with bending of phospholipid monolayers into a curved micellar surface, and (ii) the energy associated with filling the void in the center of the resultant mixed micelle. In this review, we show that reliable data on the phase boundaries, and their dependence on various conditions, are consistent with this hypothesis, even if the data might have been interpreted differently. Although most of the experimental data discussed here were obtained with the non-ionic detergent Triton X-100, the conclusions should be applicable to a wide variety of detergents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-93
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Biochemical Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Bilayers
  • Cholesterol
  • Detergent(s)
  • Liposomes
  • Mixed micelles
  • Phospholipids
  • Solubilization
  • Spontaneous curvature


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