The structure of softly supported polymer-cushioned lipid bilayers, prepared in two different ways at the quartz-solution interface, were determined using neutron reflectometry. The polymer cushion consisted of a thin layer of branched, cationic polyethyleneimine (PEI), and the bilayers were formed by adsorption of small unilamellar dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine (DMPC) vesicles. When vesicles were first allowed to adsorb to a bare quartz substrate, an almost perfect bilayer formed. When the polymer was then added to the aqueous solution, it appeared to diffuse beneath this bilayer, effectively lifting it from the substrate. In contrast, if the polymer layer is adsorbed first to the bare quartz substrate followed by addition of vesicles to the solution, there is very little interaction of the vesicles with the polymer layer, and the result is a complex structure most likely consisting of patchy multilayers or adsorbed vesicles.
Majewski, J., Wong, J. Y., Park, C. K., Seitz, M., Israelachvili, J. N., & Smith, G. S. (1998). Structural studies of polymer-cushioned lipid bilayers. Biophysical Journal, 75(5), 2363–2367. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(98)77680-5