When micron-scale compositional heterogeneity develops in membranes, the distribution of lipids on one face of the membrane strongly affects the distribution on the other. Specifically, when lipid membranes phase separate into coexisting liquid phases, domains in each monolayer leaflet of the membrane are colocalized with domains in the opposite leaflet. Colocalized domains have never been observed to spontaneously move out of registry. This result indicates that the lipid compositions in one leaflet are strongly coupled to compositions in the opposing leaflet. Predictions of the interleaflet coupling parameter, Λ, vary by a factor of 50. We measure the value of Λ by applying high shear forces to supported lipid bilayers. This causes the upper leaflet to slide over the lower leaflet, moving domains out of registry. We find that the threshold shear stress required to deregister domains in the upper and lower leaflets increases with the inverse length of domains. We derive a simple, closed-form expression relating the threshold shear to Λ, and find Λ = 0.016 ± 0.004 kBT/nm2.
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