Ultrastructural fluctuations at nanoscale are fundamental to assess properties and functionalities of advanced out-of-equilibrium materials. We have taken myelin as a model of supramolecular assembly in out-of-equilibrium living matter. Myelin sheath is a simple stable multilamellar structure of high relevance and impact in biomedicine. Although it is known that myelin has a quasi-crystalline ultrastructure, there is no information on its fluctuations at nanoscale in different states due to limitations of the available standard techniques. To overcome these limitations, we have used scanning micro X-ray diffraction, which is a unique non-invasive probe of both reciprocal and real space to visualize statistical fluctuations of myelin order of the sciatic nerve of Xenopus laevis. The results show that the ultrastructure period of the myelin is stabilized by large anticorrelated fluctuations at nanoscale, between hydrophobic and hydrophilic layers. The ratio between the total thickness of hydrophilic and hydrophobic layers defines the conformational parameter, which describes the different states of myelin. Our key result is that myelin in its out-of-equilibrium functional state fluctuates point-to-point between different conformations showing a correlated disorder described by a Levy distribution. As the system approaches the thermodynamic equilibrium in an aged state, the disorder loses its correlation degree and the structural fluctuation distribution changes to Gaussian. In a denatured state at low pH, it changes to a completely disordered stage. Our results aim to clarify the degradation mechanism in biological systems by associating these states with ultrastructural dynamic fluctuations at nanoscale.
- correlated disorder
- functional nanoscale fluctuations
- levy distribution
- out-of-equilibrium biological systems
- scanning micro X-ray diffraction
- supramolecular assembly