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Spatial-Temporal Studies of Membrane Dynamics: Scanning Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (SFCS)


Giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) have been widely used as a model membrane system to study membrane organization, dynamics, and protein-membrane interactions. Most recent studies have relied on imaging methods, which require good contrast for image resolution. Multiple sequential image processing only detects slow components of membrane dynamics. We have developed a new fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) technique, termed scanning FCS (i.e., SFCS), which performs multiple FCS measurements simultaneously by rapidly directing the excitation laser beam in a uniform (circular) scan across the bilayer of the GUVs in a repetitive fashion. The scan rate is fast compared to the diffusion of the membrane proteins and even small molecules in the GUVs. Scanning FCS outputs a "carpet" of timed fluorescence intensity fluctuations at specific points along the scan. In this study, GUVs were assembled from rat kidney brush border membranes, which included the integral membrane proteins. Scanning FCS measurements on GUVs allowed for a straightforward detection of spatial-temporal interactions between the protein and the membrane based on the diffusion rate of the protein. To test for protein incorporation into the bilayers of the GUVs, antibodies against one specific membrane protein (NaPi II cotransporter) were labeled with ALEXA-488. Fluorescence images of the GUVs in the presence of the labeled antibody showed marginal fluorescence enhancement on the GUV membrane bilayers (poor image contrast and resolution). With the application of scanning FCS, the binding of the antibody to the GUVs was detected directly from the analysis of diffusion rates of the fluorescent antibody. The diffusion coefficient of the antibody bound to NaPi II in the GUVs was approximately 200-fold smaller than that in solution. Scanning FCS provided a simple, quantitative, yet highly sensitive method to study protein-membrane interactions.

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