Biological and model membranes are frequently subjected to fluid shear stress. However, membrane mechanical responses to flow remain incompletely described. This is particularly true of membranes supported on a solid substrate, and the influences of membrane composition and substrate roughness on membrane flow responses remain poorly understood. Here, we combine microfluidics, fluorescence microscopy, and neutron reflectivity to explore how supported lipid bilayer patches respond to controlled shear stress. We demonstrate that lipid membranes undergo a significant, passive, and partially reversible increase in membrane area due to flow. We show that these fluctuations in membrane area can be constrained, but not prevented, by increasing substrate roughness. Similar flow-induced changes to membrane structure may contribute to the ability of living cells to sense and respond to flow.

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