The behavior of lipid membranes is of great importance for a wide range of biological processes. Membranes serve as a separation of bioorganic matter and thus allow for organization of living organisms into cells and sub-cellular com- partments. Insight into cellular mechanisms is vital for a detailed understanding of malfunctions, possibly leading to severe diseases.
Generally, lipid membranes have to undergo regulated topological changes to fulfill their diverse functions. These collective membrane transformations – such as pore formation, fusion, and fission – are key to processes fundamental to all living matter, they are carefully regulated by an elaborate protein machinery, and they typically involve highly curved membrane configurations.
Thus, the description of topological changes requires to conceive them they as complex fluid materials in constant change and under the influence of thermal fluctuations.
The aim of our research is to understand – at different length scales, ranging from molecular to continuum – the role of strong curvature on the structure and collective dynamics of biological membranes. The length and time scale of these processes – micrometers and microseconds – often lie beyond the capabilities of experimental techniques. Computer simulations with varying degrees of coarse- graining help us to not only identify crucial aspects of these important and fascinating processes but also allow to access the molecular world of membranes in an intuitive way.