Fluorescent probe partitioning in GUVs of binary phospholipid mixtures: Implications for interpreting phase behavior
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The phase behavior of membrane lipids is known to influence the organization and function of many integral proteins. Giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) provide a very useful model system in which to examine the details of lipid phase separation using fluorescence imaging. The visualization of domains in GUVs of binary and ternary lipid mixtures requires fluorescent probes with partitioning preference for one of the phases present. To avoid possible pitfalls when interpreting the phase behavior of these lipid mixtures, sufficiently thorough characterization of the fluorescent probes used in these studies is needed. It is now evident that fluorescent probes display different partitioning preferences between lipid phases, depending on the specific lipid host system. Here, we demonstrate the benefit of using a panel of fluorescent probes and confocal fluorescence microscopy to examine phase separation in GUVs of binary mixtures of 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC)/1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC). Patch and fibril gel phase domains were found to co-exist with liquid disordered (l(d)) domains on the surface of GUVs composed of 40:60 mol% DOPC/DPPC, over a wide range of temperatures (14-25°C). The fluorescent lipid, 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine-N-(7-nitro-2-1,3-benzoxadiazol-4-yl (NBD-DPPE), proved to be the most effective probe for visualization of fibril domains. In the presence of Lissamine(TM) rhodamine B 1,2-dihexadecanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (Rh-DPPE) we were unable to detect fibril domains. This fluorophore also affected the partitioning behavior of other fluorescent probes. Overall, we show that the selection of different fluorescent probes as lipid phase reporters can result in very different interpretation of the phase behavior of DOPC/DPPC mixtures.
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