SUV vs. LUV: What's the Difference?

Posted on October 01, 2019

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When it comes to biomedical research, unilamellar liposomes can be extremely useful in mimicking cell functions, and in turn studying biological systems. Living cells can be very complicated to study, but unilamellar liposomes provide a great tool for studying membrane interaction events like membrane fusion, protein localization, and ion channels. In this blog post, we go over the main differences between SUV and LUV, and how to decide which one is right for your research.


Unilamellar vesicles are prepared from LMV, or large, multilamellar vesicles, which are onion-like structures formed when amphiphilic lipids are hydrated. SUV, or “small, unilamellar vesicles” are usually prepared by sonication using a cuphorn, bath, or probe tip sonicator. They’re typically 15-30nm in diameter. SUV are not ideal for storage, as they will spontaneously fuse when they drop below the phase transition temperature of the lipid forming the vesicle.

SUV have a higher membrane curvature which, depending on your research, could benefit you. A higher membrane curvature can promote membrane fusion faster than vesicles with lower membrane curvature like GUV, or Giant unilamellar vesicles.


LUV, or large unilamellar vesicles, can be prepared by a variety of methods including extrusion, reverse evaporation, and ethanol injection. If prepared through extrusion, they’re referred to as LUVET, or large unilamellar vesicles prepared by extrusion technique. If they’re prepared through reverse evaporation, they’re simply referred to as REV, or reverse evaporation vesicles.

LUV typically range from 100-200nm, but can get much larger. Anything larger than 1,000nm is classified as giant unilamellar vesicles, or GUV. LUV are very suitable for storage, as they won’t spontaneously fuse like SUV can.

The size of unilamellar vesicles you want should account for the size of the specimen you’re studying. LUV has a lower membrane curvature—this factor is very important when studying fusion proteins, so be aware of what kind of membrane curvature you need for your research before deciding on a size. Have more questions about resources for your research? We can answer them. Contact us today.