Topological bounds of bending energy for lipid vesicles

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The Helfrich bending energy plays an important role in providing a mechanism for the conformation of a lipid vesicle in theoretical biophysics, which is governed by the principle of energy minimization over configurations of appropriate topological characteristics. We will show that the presence of a quantity called the spontaneous curvature obstructs the existence of a minimizer of the Helfrich energy over the set of embedded ring tori. In addition, despite the well-realized knowledge that lipid vesicles may present themselves in a variety of shapes of complicated topology, there is a lack of topological bounds for the Helfrich energy. To overcome these difficulties, we consider a general scale-invariant anisotropic curvature energy that extends the Canham elastic bending energy developed in modeling a biconcave-shaped red blood cell. We will show that, up to a rescaling of the generating radii, there is a unique minimizer of the energy over the set of embedded ring tori, in the entire parameter regime, which recovers the Willmore minimizer in its Canham isotropic limit. We also show how elevated anisotropy favors energetically a clear transition from spherical-, to ellipsoidal-, and then to biconcave-shaped surfaces, for a lipid vesicle. We then establish some genus-dependent topological lower and upper bounds for the anisotropic energy. Finally, we derive the shape equation of the generalized bending energy, which extends the well-known Helfrich shape equation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number062409
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 14 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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