Gerald Feigenson
Professor of Biochemistry & Physical Biochemistry

Gerald Feigenson




Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics
201 Biotechnology Building
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-2703


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Jerry Feigenson is a Professor of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology. He received a B.S. in Chemistry from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1968, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1974. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1974, after a brief postdoctoral study at Oxford University. He has been a Visiting Professor of Physics at Keio University in Japan, a Visiting Scholar at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association.

Awarded Outstanding Cornell Educator from Merrill Presidential Scholars 2011

Research Description

We are interested in the physical and chemical properties of biomembranes. This bilayer state of matter poses both experimental and conceptual challenges. Our goal is to understand the interactions that control the tendency of each component of the membrane bilayer to cluster, to change phase, to transfer to another membrane, or to chemically react. Thus, the thermodynamics of mixing plays a key role for interpreting our experiments and calculations.

The biomembrane can be considered as a nonrandom mixture of lipids and proteins. Some components, such as phosphatidylserine or cholesterol, can induce separated fluid bilayer phases within the biomembrane. The cholesterol-rich phase is particularly fascinating, because it is as highly ordered as a crystal, yet is actually a fluid bilayer.

Our laboratory uses a variety of chemical and physical techniques to study real and model biomembranes. We synthesize various kinds of phospholipids, including spin-labeled and fluorophor-labeled. We use various fluorescence spectroscopic methods, especially fluorescence quenching and fluorescene microscopy, to study bilayer behavior and partition of lipids or proteins between coexisting membrane phases.

We have been working actively on lipid mixtures that are models for the outer leaflet of animal cell plasma membranes. Recently, we found that coexisting "raft and non-raft" immiscible liquid domains switch between a size scale of a few nanometers, and a size scale of microns, when lipid composition is systematically changed in a 4-component mixture. We are also studying lipid mixtures that are good models for the cytosolic leaflet of plasma membranes. These lipid mixtures are good models for the study of how viruses assemble on the membrane.


Konyakhina TM, Goh SL, Amazon J, Heberle FA, Wu J and Feigenson GW. 2011. Control of a Nanoscopic-to-Macroscopic Transition: Modulated Phases in 4-Component DSPC/DOPC/POPC/chol Giant Unilamellar Vesicles. Bipophys. J. Lett. 101 (in press, July 2011)

Heberle FA and Feigenson GW. 2011a. Finite Phase-separation FRET I: A quantitative model valid for bilayer nanodomains. arXiv:1105.6252

Heberle FA, Wu J, Goh SL, Petruzielo RS and Feigenson GW. 2010. Comparison of three ternary lipid bilayer mixtures: FRET and ESR reveal nanodomains. Biophys. J. 99:3309-3318. PMCID: PMC21081079

Morales-Penningston, N.F., Wu J., Farkas, E.R., Goh, S.L., Konyakhina, T.M., Zheng, J.Y., Webb, W.W., and Feigenson, G.W. 2010. GUV Preparation and Imaging: Minimizing Artifacts. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1798:1324-1332.

Feigenson, G.W. 2009. Phase Diagrams and Lipid Domains in Multicomponent Lipid Bilayer Mixtures. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1788: 47-52.

Zhao, J., Wu, J, Heberle, F.A., Mills, T.T., Klawitter, P., Huang, G. Costanza, G. and Feigenson, G.W. 2007. Phase studies of model biomembranes: Complex behavior of DSPC/DOPC/Cholesterol. Biochim. Biophys. Acta, 1768: 2764-2776.

Hammond, A.T., Heberle, F.A., Baumgart, T., Holowka, D., Baird, B. and Feigenson, G.W. 2005. Crosslinking a Lipid Raft Component Triggers Liquid Ordered–Liquid Disordered Phase Separation in Model Plasma Membranes. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 102: 6320-6325.

Click here for Dr. Feigenson's PubMed listing.