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We report some unusual structural transitions upon the addition of an amphiphilic biopolymer to unilamellar surfactant vesicles. The polymer is a hydrophobically modified chitosan and it embeds its hydrophobes in vesicle bilayers. We study vesicle-polymer mixtures using small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) and cryotransmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM). When low amounts of the polymer are added to unilamellar vesicles of ca. 120 nm diameter, the vesicle size decreases by about 50%. Upon further addition of polymer, lamellar peaks are observed in the SANS spectra at high scattering vectors. We show that these spectra correspond to a co-existence of unilamellar and bilamellar vesicles. The transition to bilamellar vesicles as well as the changes in unilamellar vesicle size are further confirmed by cryo-TEM. A mechanism for the polymer-induced transitions in vesicle morphology is proposed.

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Copyright 2006 American Physical Society.