The spontaneous assembly of phospholipids at planar interfaces between thermotropic liquid crystals and aqueous phases gives rise to patterned orientations of the liquid crystals that reflect the spatial and temporal organization of the phospholipids. Strong and weak specific-binding events involving proteins at these interfaces drive the reorganization of the phospholipids and trigger orientational transitions in the liquid crystals. Because these interfaces are fluid, processes involving the lateral organization of proteins (such as the formation of protein- and phospholipid-rich domains) are also readily imaged by the orientational response of the liquid crystal, as are stereospecific enzymatic events. These results provide principles for label-free monitoring of aqueous streams for molecular and biomolecular species without the need for complex instrumentation.
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