Mechanobiology predicts raft formations triggered by ligand-receptor activity across the cell membrane

Angelo R. Carotenuto, Laura Lunghi, Valentina Piccolo, Mahnoush Babaei, Kaushik Dayal, Nicola Pugno, Massimiliano Zingales, Luca Deseri, Massimiliano Fraldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Clustering of ligand-binding receptors of different types on thickened isles of the cell membrane, namely lipid rafts, is an experimentally observed phenomenon. Although its influence on cell's response is deeply investigated, the role of the coupling between mechanical processes and multiphysics involving the active receptors and the surrounding lipid membrane during ligand-binding has not yet been understood. Specifically, the focus of this work is on G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), the widest group of transmembrane proteins in animals, which regulate specific cell processes through chemical signalling pathways involving a synergistic balance between the cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate (cAMP) produced by active GPCRs in the intracellular environment and its efflux, mediated by the Multidrug Resistance Proteins (MRPs) transporters. This paper develops a multiphysics approach based on the interplay among energetics, multiscale geometrical changes and mass balance of species, i.e. active GPCRs and MRPs, including diffusion and kinetics of binding and unbinding. Because the obtained energy depends upon both the kinematics and the changes of species densities, balance of mass and of linear momentum are coupled and govern the space-time evolution of the cell membrane. The mechanobiology involving remodelling and change of lipid ordering of the cell membrane allows to predict dynamics of transporters and active receptors –in full agreement with experimentally observed cAMP levels– and how the latter trigger rafts formation and cluster on such sites. Within the current scientific debate on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and on the basis of the ascertained fact that lipid rafts often serve as an entry port for viruses, it is felt that approaches accounting for strong coupling among mechanobiological aspects could even turn helpful in better understanding membrane-mediated phenomena such as COVID-19 virus-cell interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103974
Pages (from-to)103974
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Cell membrane
  • G-protein coupled receptors
  • GPCR
  • Ligand-receptor
  • Lipid rafts
  • Mechanobiology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Structured deformations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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