Label-Free Sensing on Supported Lipid Bilayers



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Cell membranes are integral for many biological processes. In addition to containing and protecting cellular contents and maintaining the chemical integrity of the cell, these interfaces host a variety of ligand-receptor interactions. These ligand-receptor interactions are important for cell signaling and transport and the ability to monitor them is key to understanding these processes. In addition, therapeutics and drug discovery is also aided by membrane-specific study, as the majority of drugs target receptors associated with the cell surface.

The cell membrane can be effectively mimicked by the use of supported lipid bilayers, which provide a robust platform exhibiting the lateral fluidity and composition associated with cell membranes. The ability to study both ligand-receptor interactions as well as small molecule-membrane interactions on these model membranes is aided by the fact that these assays can be multiplexed and are amenable to use with low sample volumes with high throughput.

Our laboratory has recently developed a strategy for fluorescent microscopy studies of ligand-receptor interactions on supported lipid bilayers without the use of fluorescently-labeled analytes. This technique involves the incorporation of pH-sensitive fluorophores into the composition of the supported lipid bilayer as embedded reporter dyes. It was determined that this assay can operate as either a ?turn-on? or a ?turn-off? sensor depending on the analyte to be detected. It was additionally found that modulating the ionic strength of the operating buffer allows for tuning the operating pH and sensitivity of the assay.

This label-free technique can be utilized to monitor small peptide interactions with bilayers containing specific phospholipids. Basic amino acid sequences which are associated with transporting contents across membranes or anti-microbial activity can be monitored binding to negatively charged bilayers without the use of labels. Not only is this a sensitive technique for detecting small peptides, but thermodynamic data can be extracted as well.

In a final set of experiments, the interaction of proteins with phosphatidylserine (PS) in supported lipid bilayers is observed by utilizing PS-Cu2+-induced quenching of fluorophores. Disruption of this metal-phospholipid, specifically by Ca2+-dependent protein kinases, results in a turn-on fluorescent assay, which can be used to monitor the binding of the protein to PS and the effects of other metal interference.