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Publications

by Keyword: Membrane

Larrañaga, Enara, Fernández‐Majada, Vanesa, Ojosnegros, Samuel, Comelles, Jordi, Martinez, Elena, (2022). Ephrin Micropatterns Exogenously Modulate Cell Organization in Organoid‐Derived Intestinal Epithelial Monolayers Advanced Materials Interfaces , 2201301

Casanellas I, Samitier J, Lagunas A, (2022). Recent advances in engineering nanotopographic substrates for cell studies Frontiers In Bioengineering And Biotechnology 10, 1002967

Cells sense their environment through the cell membrane receptors. Interaction with extracellular ligands induces receptor clustering at the nanoscale, assembly of the signaling complexes in the cytosol and activation of downstream signaling pathways, regulating cell response. Nanoclusters of receptors can be further organized hierarchically in the cell membrane at the meso- and micro-levels to exert different biological functions. To study and guide cell response, cell culture substrates have been engineered with features that can interact with the cells at different scales, eliciting controlled cell responses. In particular, nanoscale features of 1-100 nm in size allow direct interaction between the material and single cell receptors and their nanoclusters. Since the first "contact guidance" experiments on parallel microstructures, many other studies followed with increasing feature resolution and biological complexity. Here we present an overview of the advances in the field summarizing the biological scenario, substrate fabrication techniques and applications, highlighting the most recent developments.Copyright © 2022 Casanellas, Samitier and Lagunas.

JTD Keywords: cell response, density, differentiation, lithography, micro, nanofabrication, nanopatterning, nanopatterns, nanoscale, nanotopography, organization, photolithography, Cell response, Nanofabrication, Nanopatterning, Nanotopography, Plasma-membrane, Receptor nanoclustering


Ferrer, I, Andres-Benito, P, Ausin, K, Cartas-Cejudo, P, Lachen-Montes, M, del Rio, JA, Fernandez-Irigoyen, J, Santamaria, E, (2022). Dysregulated Protein Phosphorylation in a Mouse Model of FTLD-Tau Journal Of Neuropathology And Experimental Neurology 81, 696-706

The neocortex of P301S mice, used as a model of fronto-temporal lobar degeneration linked to tau mutation (FTLD-tau), and wild-type mice, both aged 9 months, were analyzed with conventional label-free phosphoproteomics and SWATH-MS (sequential window acquisition of all theoretical fragment ion spectra mass spectrometry) to assess the (phospho)proteomes. The total number of identified dysregulated phosphoproteins was 328 corresponding to 524 phosphorylation sites. The majority of dysregulated phosphoproteins, most of them hyperphosphorylated, were proteins of the membranes, synapses, membrane trafficking, membrane vesicles linked to endo- and exocytosis, cytoplasmic vesicles, and cytoskeleton. Another group was composed of kinases. In contrast, proteins linked to DNA, RNA metabolism, RNA splicing, and protein synthesis were hypophosphorylated. Other pathways modulating energy metabolism, cell signaling, Golgi apparatus, carbohydrates, and lipids are also targets of dysregulated protein phosphorylation in P301S mice. The present results, together with accompanying immunohistochemical and Western-blotting studies, show widespread abnormal phosphorylation of proteins, in addition to protein tau, in P301S mice. These observations point to dysregulated protein phosphorylation as a relevant contributory pathogenic component of tauopathies.

JTD Keywords: (phospho)proteomics, Cytoskeleton, Kinases, Membranes, Networks, Oxidative stress, Pathology, Phosphoproteome analysis, Tau, Tauopathy


Wagner, AM, Eto, H, Joseph, A, Kohyama, S, Haraszti, T, Zamora, RA, Vorobii, M, Giannotti, MI, Schwille, P, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, (2022). Dendrimersome Synthetic Cells Harbor Cell Division Machinery of Bacteria Advanced Materials 34, 2202364

The integration of active cell machinery with synthetic building blocks is the bridge toward developing synthetic cells with biological functions and beyond. Self-replication is one of the most important tasks of living systems, and various complex machineries exist to execute it. In Escherichia coli, a contractile division ring is positioned to mid-cell by concentration oscillations of self-organizing proteins (MinCDE), where it severs membrane and cell wall. So far, the reconstitution of any cell division machinery has exclusively been tied to liposomes. Here, the reconstitution of a rudimentary bacterial divisome in fully synthetic bicomponent dendrimersomes is shown. By tuning the membrane composition, the interaction of biological machinery with synthetic membranes can be tailored to reproduce its dynamic behavior. This constitutes an important breakthrough in the assembly of synthetic cells with biological elements, as tuning of membrane-divisome interactions is the key to engineering emergent biological behavior from the bottom-up.

JTD Keywords: Bacterial cell division, Bottom-up synthetic biology, Dendrimersomes, Dynamic min patterns, Dynamics, Ftsz assembly, Ftsz filaments, Mind, Organization, Pole oscillation, Polymersome membranes, Proteins, Rapid pole, Synthetic cells, Vesicles


Bernabeu, M, Aznar, S, Prieto, A, Huttener, M, Juarez, A, (2022). Differential Expression of Two Copies of the irmA Gene in the Enteroaggregative E. coli Strain 042 Microbiology Spectrum 10, e00454-22

Gene duplications occur in prokaryotic genomes at a detectable frequency. In many instances, the biological function of the duplicates is unknown, and hence, the significance of the presence of multiple copies of these genes remains unclear.; Gene duplications significantly impact the gene repertoires of both eukaryotic and prokaryotic microorganisms. The genomes of pathogenic Escherichia coli strains share a group of duplicated genes whose function is mostly unknown. The irmA gene is one of the duplicates encoded in several pathogenic E. coli strains. The function of its gene product was investigated in the uropathogenic E. coli strain CFT073, which contains a single functional copy. The IrmA protein structure mimics that of human interleukin receptors and likely plays a role during infection. The enteroaggregative E. coli strain 042 contains two functional copies of the irmA gene. In the present work, we investigated their biological roles. The irmA_4509 allele is expressed under several growth conditions. Its expression is modulated by the global regulators OxyR and Hha, with optimal expression at 37 degrees C and under nutritional stress conditions. Expression of the irmA_2244 allele can only be detected when the irmA_4509 allele is knocked out. Differences in the promoter regions of both alleles account for their differential expression. Our results show that under several environmental conditions, the expression of the IrmA protein in strain 042 is dictated by the irmA_4509 allele. The irmA_2244 allele appears to play a backup role to ensure IrmA expression when the irmA_4509 allele loses its function. IMPORTANCE Gene duplications occur in prokaryotic genomes at a detectable frequency. In many instances, the biological function of the duplicates is unknown, and hence, the significance of the presence of multiple copies of these genes remains unclear. In pathogenic E. coli isolates, the irmA gene can be present either as a single copy or in two or more copies. We focused our work on studying why a different pathogenic E. coli strain encodes two functional copies of the irmA gene. We show that under several environmental conditions, one of the alleles dictates IrmA expression, and the second remains silent. The latter allele is only expressed when the former is silenced. The presence of more than one functional copy of the irmA gene in some pathogenic E. coli strains can result in sufficient expression of this virulence factor during the infection process.

JTD Keywords: 042, Adaptation, Aec69, Aggregative adherence, Chromosomal genes, Coli, Duplication, Enteroaggregative e, Escherichia-coli, Evolution, Gene duplications, Hha/ymoa, Irma, Mechanism, Outer-membrane, Protein


Ferrer, I, Andres-Benito, P, Ausin, K, Cartas-Cejudo, P, Lachen-Montes, M, del Rio, JA, Fernandez-Irigoyen, J, Santamaria, E, (2022). Dysregulated Brain Protein Phosphorylation Linked to Increased Human Tau Expression in the hTau Transgenic Mouse Model International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 6427

Altered protein phosphorylation is a major pathologic modification in tauopathies and Alzheimer's disease (AD) linked to abnormal tau fibrillar deposits in neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and pre-tangles and beta-amyloid deposits in AD. hTau transgenic mice, which express 3R and less 4R human tau with no mutations in a murine knock-out background, show increased tau deposition in neurons but not NFTs and pre-tangles at the age of nine months. Label-free (phospho)proteomics and SWATH-MS identified 2065 proteins in hTau and wild-type (WT) mice. Only six proteins showed increased levels in hTau; no proteins were down-regulated. Increased tau phosphorylation in hTau was detected at Ser199, Ser202, Ser214, Ser396, Ser400, Thr403, Ser404, Ser413, Ser416, Ser422, Ser491, and Ser494, in addition to Thr181, Thr231, Ser396/Ser404, but not at Ser202/Thr205. In addition, 4578 phosphopeptides (corresponding to 1622 phosphoproteins) were identified in hTau and WT mice; 64 proteins were differentially phosphorylated in hTau. Sixty proteins were grouped into components of membranes, membrane signaling, synapses, vesicles, cytoskeleton, DNA/RNA/protein metabolism, ubiquitin/proteasome system, cholesterol and lipid metabolism, and cell signaling. These results showed that over-expression of human tau without pre-tangle and NFT formation preferentially triggers an imbalance in the phosphorylation profile of specific proteins involved in the cytoskeletal-membrane-signaling axis.

JTD Keywords: Aggregation, Alzheimers-disease, Animal-models, Cytoskeleton, Htau, Membrane, Mice, Networks, Pathology, Phosphoproteome analysis, Phosphorylation, Synapsis, Tau, Tauopathies, Tauopathy


Woythe L, Madhikar P, Feiner-Gracia N, Storm C, Albertazzi L, (2022). A Single-Molecule View at Nanoparticle Targeting Selectivity: Correlating Ligand Functionality and Cell Receptor Density Acs Nano 16, 3785-3796

Antibody-functionalized nanoparticles (NPs) are commonly used to increase the targeting selectivity toward cells of interest. At a molecular level, the number of functional antibodies on the NP surface and the density of receptors on the target cell determine the targeting interaction. To rationally develop selective NPs, the single-molecule quantitation of both parameters is highly desirable. However, techniques able to count molecules with a nanometric resolution are scarce. Here, we developed a labeling approach to quantify the number of functional cetuximabs conjugated to NPs and the expression of epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFRs) in breast cancer cells using direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (dSTORM). The single-molecule resolution of dSTORM allows quantifying molecules at the nanoscale, giving a detailed insight into the distributions of individual NP ligands and cell receptors. Additionally, we predicted the fraction of accessible antibody-conjugated NPs using a geometrical model, showing that the total number exceeds the accessible number of antibodies. Finally, we correlated the NP functionality, cell receptor density, and NP uptake to identify the highest cell uptake selectivity regimes. We conclude that single-molecule functionality mapping using dSTORM provides a molecular understanding of NP targeting, aiding the rational design of selective nanomedicines.

JTD Keywords: active targeting, active targeting dstorm, antibodies, dstorm, heterogeneity, multivalency, nanomedicine, nanoparticle functionality, size, super-resolution microscopy, surface, Active targeting, Antibodies, Cell membranes, Cell receptors, Cytology, Direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy, Dstorm, Heterogeneity, Ligands, Medical nanotechnology, Molecules, Nanomedicine, Nanoparticle functionality, Nanoparticle targeting, Nanoparticles, Optical reconstruction, Single molecule, Stochastic systems, Stochastics, Super-resolution microscopy, Superresolution microscopy


García-Torres, Jose, Lázaro, Carmen, Sylla, Dioulde, Lanzalaco, Sonia, Ginebra, Maria-Pau, Alemán, Carlos, (2022). Combining 2D organic and 1D inorganic nanoblocks to develop free-standing hybrid nanomembranes for conformable biosensors Journal Of Nanostructure In Chemistry ,

We report a simple approach to fabricate free-standing perforated 2D nanomembranes hosting well-ordered 1D metallic nanostructures to obtain hybrid materials with nanostructured surfaces for flexible electronics. Nanomembranes are formed by alternatively depositing perforated poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) layers. Copper metallic nanowires (NWs) were incorporated into the nanoperforations of the top PLA layer by electrodeposition and further coated with silver via a transmetallation reaction. The combination of 2D polymeric nanomembranes and aligned 1D metallic NWs allows merging the flexibility and conformability of the ultrathin soft polymeric nanomembranes with the good electrical properties of metals for biointegrated electronic devices. Thus, we were able to tailor the nanomembrane surface chemistry as it was corroborated by SEM, EDX, XPS, CV, EIS and contact angle. The obtained hybrid nanomembranes were flexible and conformable showing sensing capacity towards H2O2 with good linear concentration range (0.35–10 mM), sensitivity (120 µA cm?2 mM?1) and limit of detection (7 ?m). Moreover, the membranes showed good stability, reproducibility and selectivity towards H2O2.

JTD Keywords: biointegrated sensors, designs, electronics, fabrication, free-standing films, h2o2, metallic nanowires, nanoparticles, nanowires, sensor, skin, Hydrogen-peroxide, Perforated nanomembranes


Georgiev VN, Avalos-Padilla Y, Fernàndez-Busquets X, Dimova R, (2022). Femtoliter Injection of ESCRT-III Proteins into Adhered Giant Unilamellar Vesicles Bio Protoc 12, e4328

The endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) machinery mediates membrane fission reactions that exhibit a different topology from that observed in clathrin-coated vesicles. In all of the ESCRT-mediated events, the nascent vesicle buds away from the cytosol. However, ESCRT proteins are able to act upon membranes with different geometries. For instance, the formation of multivesicular bodies (MVBs) and the biogenesis of extracellular vesicles both require the participation of the ESCRT-III sub-complex, and they differ in their initial membrane geometry before budding starts: the protein complex acts either from outside the membrane organelle (causing inward budding) or from within (causing outward budding). Several studies have reconstituted the action of the ESCRT-III subunits in supported bilayers and cell-sized vesicles mimicking the geometry occurring during MVBs formation (in-bud), but extracellular vesicle budding (out-bud) mechanisms remain less explored, because of the outstanding difficulties encountered in encapsulation of functional ESCRT-III in vesicles. Here, we provide a different approach that allows the recreation of the out-bud formation, by combining giant unilamellar vesicles as a membrane model and a microinjection system. The vesicles are immobilized prior to injection via weak adhesion to the chamber coverslip, which also ensures preserving the membrane excess area required for budding. After protein injection, vesicles exhibit outward budding. The approach presented in this work can be used in the future to disentangle the mechanisms underlying ESCRT-III-mediated fission, recreating the geometry of extracellular bud production, which remains a challenge. Moreover, the microinjection methodology can be also adapted to interrogate the action of other cytosolic components on the encapsulating membranous organelle. Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.

JTD Keywords: adhesion, budding, electroformation, escrt-iii, exosomes, extracellular vesicles, light, microinjection, microparticles, plasma, Adhesion, Budding, Escrt-iii, Extracellular vesicles, Giant unilamellar vesicle (guv), Membrane, Microinjection


Bar L, Perissinotto F, Redondo-Morata L, Giannotti MI, Goole J, Losada-Pérez P, (2022). Interactions of hydrophilic quantum dots with defect-free and defect containing supported lipid membranes Colloids And Surfaces B-Biointerfaces 210, 112239

Quantum dots (QDs) are semiconductor nanoparticles with unique optical and electronic properties, whose interest as potential nano-theranostic platforms for imaging and sensing is increasing. The design and use of QDs requires the understanding of cell-nanoparticle interactions at a microscopic and nanoscale level. Model systems such as supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) are useful, less complex platforms mimicking physico-chemical properties of cell membranes. In this work, we investigated the effect of topographical homogeneity of SLBs bearing different surface charge in the adsorption of hydrophilic QDs. Using quartz-crystal microbalance, a label-free surface sensitive technique, we show significant differences in the interactions of QDs onto homogeneous and inhomogeneous SLBs formed following different strategies. Within short time scales, QDs adsorb onto topographically homogeneous, defect-free SLBs is driven by electrostatic interactions, leading to no layer disruption. After prolonged QD exposure, the nanomechanical stability of the SLB decreases suggesting nanoparticle insertion. In the case of inhomogeneous, defect containing layers, QDs target preferentially membrane defects, driven by a subtle interplay of electrostatic and entropic effects, inducing local vesicle rupture and QD insertion at membrane edges. © 2021

JTD Keywords: adsorption, atomic force microscopy, bilayer formation, gold nanoparticles, hydrophilic quantum dots, lipid membrane defects, model, nanomechanics, quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation, size, supported lipid bilayers, surfaces, Atomic force microscopy, Atomic-force-microscopy, Cytology, Defect-free, Electronic properties, Electrostatics, Hydrophilic quantum dot, Hydrophilic quantum dots, Hydrophilicity, Hydrophilics, Lipid bilayers, Lipid membrane defect, Lipid membrane defects, Lipid membranes, Lipids, Nanocrystals, Nanomechanics, Optical and electronic properties, Quartz, Quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation, Quartz crystal microbalances, Quartz-crystal microbalance, Semiconductor nanoparticles, Semiconductor quantum dots, Supported lipid bilayers


Leite, DM, Seifi, M, Ruiz-Perez, L, Nguemo, F, Plomann, M, Swinny, JD, Battaglia, G, (2022). Syndapin-2 mediated transcytosis of amyloid-beta across the blood brain barrier Brain Commun 4, fcac093

A deficient transport of amyloid-beta across the blood-brain barrier, and its diminished clearance from the brain, contribute to neurodegenerative and vascular pathologies, such as Alzheimer's disease and cerebral amyloid angiopathy, respectively. At the blood-brain barrier, amyloid-beta efflux transport is associated with the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1. However, the precise mechanisms governing amyloid-beta transport across the blood-brain barrier, in health and disease, remain to be fully understood. Recent evidence indicates that the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 transcytosis occurs through a tuhulation-mediated mechanism stabilized by syndapin-2. Here, we show that syndapin-2 is associated with amyloid-beta clearance via low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 across the blood-brain barrier. We further demonstrate that risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, amyloid-beta expression and ageing, are associated with a decline in the native expression of syndapin-2 within the brain endothelium. Our data reveals that syndapin-2-mediated pathway, and its balance with the endosomal sorting, are important for amyloid-beta clearance proposing a measure to evaluate Alzheimer's disease and ageing, as well as a target for counteracting amyloid-beta build-up. Moreover, we provide evidence for the impact of the avidity of amyloid-beta assemblies in their trafficking across the brain endothelium and in low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 expression levels, which may affect the overall clearance of amyloid-beta across the blood-brain barrier.

JTD Keywords: Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimers-disease, Amyloid-beta, Apolipoprotein-j, Blood-brain barrier, Clearance, Expression, Membrane invagination, Peptide, Protein, Rab gtpases, Receptor, Syndapin-2, Transport, Tubular transcytosis


Macedo, MH, Barros, AS, Martinez, E, Barrias, CC, Sarmento, B, (2022). All layers matter: Innovative three-dimensional epithelium-stroma-endothelium intestinal model for reliable permeability outcomes Journal Of Controlled Release 341, 414-430

Drug development is an ever-growing field, increasingly requesting reliable in vitro tools to speed up early screening phases, reducing the need for animal experiments. In oral delivery, understanding the absorption pattern of a new drug in the small intestine is paramount. Classical two-dimensional (2D) in vitro models are generally too simplistic and do not accurately represent native tissues. The main goal of this work was to develop an advanced three-dimensional (3D) in vitro intestinal model to test absorption in a more reliable manner, by better mimicking the native environment. The 3D model is composed of a collagen-based stromal layer with embedded fibroblasts mimicking the intestinal lamina propria and providing support for the epithelium, composed of enterocytes and mucus-secreting cells. An endothelial layer, surrogating the absorptive capillary network, is also present. The cellular crosstalk between the different cells present in the model is unveiled, disclosing key players, namely those involved in the contraction of collagen by fibroblasts. The developed 3D model presents lower levels of P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and Multidrug Resistance Protein 2 (MRP2) efflux transporters, which are normally overexpressed in traditional Caco-2 models, and are paramount in the absorption of many compounds. This, allied with transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) values closer to physiological ranges, leads to improved and more reliable permeability outcomes, which are observed when comparing our results with in vivo data.

JTD Keywords: 3d intestinal model, drug absorption, drug development, endothelium, hydrogel, 3d intestinal model, 3d modeling, 3d models, 3d-modeling, Alkaline-phosphatase, Animal experiments, Biopharmaceutics classification, Caco-2 cells, Cell culture, Collagen, Collagen gel, Drug absorption, Drug development, Endothelium, Fibroblasts, Glycoproteins, Hydrogel, In-vitro, Matrix metalloproteinases, Membrane-permeability, Paracellular transport, Permeability, Single-pass vs., Speed up


Riera, Roger, Hogervorst, Tim P., Doelman, Ward, Ni, Yan, Pujals, Silvia, Bolli, Evangelia, Codée, Jeroen DC., van Kasteren, Sander I., Albertazzi, Lorenzo, (2021). Single-molecule imaging of glycan–lectin interactions on cells with Glyco-PAINT Nature Chemical Biology 17, 1281-+

Most lectins bind carbohydrate ligands with relatively low affinity, making the identification of optimal ligands challenging. Here we introduce a point accumulation in nanoscale topography (PAINT) super-resolution microscopy method to capture weak glycan-lectin interactions at the single-molecule level in living cells (Glyco-PAINT). Glyco-PAINT exploits weak and reversible sugar binding to directly achieve single-molecule detection and quantification in cells and is used to establish the relative kon and koff rates of a synthesized library of carbohydrate-based probes, as well as the diffusion coefficient of the receptor-sugar complex. Uptake of ligands correlates with their binding affinity and residence time to establish structure-function relations for various synthetic glycans. We reveal how sugar multivalency and presentation geometry can be optimized for binding and internalization. Overall, Glyco-PAINT represents a powerful approach to study weak glycan-lectin interactions on the surface of living cells, one that can be potentially extended to a variety of lectin-sugar interactions.© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc.

JTD Keywords: dc-sign, density, dimerization, endocytosis, lateral mobility, ligand-binding, mannose receptor, proteins, recognition, Animal, Animals, Cell membrane, Cell membrane permeability, Chemistry, Cho cell line, Cho cells, Cricetulus, Cysteine-rich domain, Kinetics, Lectin, Lectins, Ligand, Ligands, Molecular library, Multivariate analysis, Polysaccharide, Polysaccharides, Procedures, Protein binding, Single molecule imaging, Small molecule libraries, Structure activity relation, Structure-activity relationship


Song, S, Mason, AF, Post, RAJ, De Corato, M, Mestre, R, Yewdall, NA, Cao, S, van der Hofstad, RW, Sanchez, S, Abdelmohsen, LKEA, van Hest, JCM, (2021). Engineering transient dynamics of artificial cells by stochastic distribution of enzymes Nature Communications 12, 6897

Here the authors develop a coacervate micromotor that can display autonomous motion as a result of stochastic distribution of propelling units. This stochastic-induced mobility is validated and explained through experiments and theory. Random fluctuations are inherent to all complex molecular systems. Although nature has evolved mechanisms to control stochastic events to achieve the desired biological output, reproducing this in synthetic systems represents a significant challenge. Here we present an artificial platform that enables us to exploit stochasticity to direct motile behavior. We found that enzymes, when confined to the fluidic polymer membrane of a core-shell coacervate, were distributed stochastically in time and space. This resulted in a transient, asymmetric configuration of propulsive units, which imparted motility to such coacervates in presence of substrate. This mechanism was confirmed by stochastic modelling and simulations in silico. Furthermore, we showed that a deeper understanding of the mechanism of stochasticity could be utilized to modulate the motion output. Conceptually, this work represents a leap in design philosophy in the construction of synthetic systems with life-like behaviors.

JTD Keywords: Cell, Cell component, Enzyme, Enzyme activity, Membrane, Philosophy, Polymer, Stochasticity, Substrate


Lozano, Helena, Millan-Solsona, Ruben, Blanco-Cabra, Nuria, Fabregas, Rene, Torrents, Eduard, Gomila, Gabriel, (2021). Electrical properties of outer membrane extensions from Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 Nanoscale 13, 18754-18762

Outer membrane extensions from the metal-reducing bacterium Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 show an insulating behavior in dry air environment as measured by scanning dielectric microscopy.

JTD Keywords: constant, dielectric polarization, microbial nanowires, nanoscale, transport, Air environment, Bacteria, Bacterial cells, Bacterial nanowires, Dry air, Metal-reducing bacteria, Outer membrane, Phase-minerals, Proteins, Shewanella oneidensis mr-1, Solid phasis, Solid-phase, Space division multiple access, Tubulars


Le Roux, Anabel-Lise, Tozzi, Caterina, Walani, Nikhil, Quiroga, Xarxa, Zalvidea, Dobryna, Trepat, Xavier, Staykova, Margarita, Arroyo, Marino, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, (2021). Dynamic mechanochemical feedback between curved membranes and BAR protein self-organization Nature Communications 12, 6550

In many physiological situations, BAR proteins reshape membranes with pre-existing curvature (templates), contributing to essential cellular processes. However, the mechanism and the biological implications of this reshaping process remain unclear. Here we show, both experimentally and through modelling, that BAR proteins reshape low curvature membrane templates through a mechanochemical phase transition. This phenomenon depends on initial template shape and involves the co-existence and progressive transition between distinct local states in terms of molecular organization (protein arrangement and density) and membrane shape (template size and spherical versus cylindrical curvature). Further, we demonstrate in cells that this phenomenon enables a mechanotransduction mode, in which cellular stretch leads to the mechanical formation of membrane templates, which are then reshaped into tubules by BAR proteins. Our results demonstrate the interplay between membrane mechanics and BAR protein molecular organization, integrating curvature sensing and generation in a comprehensive framework with implications for cell mechanical responses.

JTD Keywords: aggregation, amphiphysin, domains, vesicles, Article, Cell, Cell component, Curvature, Detection method, Geomembrane, Mechanotransduction, Membrane, Molecular analysis, Phase transition, Physiology, Protein, Self organization


Ferrer I, Andrés-Benito P, Ausín K, Pamplona R, del Rio JA, Fernández-Irigoyen J, Santamaría E, (2021). Dysregulated protein phosphorylation: A determining condition in the continuum of brain aging and Alzheimer's disease Brain Pathology 31, e12996

Tau hyperphosphorylation is the first step of neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) formation. In the present study, samples of the entorhinal cortex (EC) and frontal cortex area 8 (FC) of cases with NFT pathology classified as stages I–II, III–IV, and V–VI without comorbidities, and of middle-aged (MA) individuals with no NFT pathology, were analyzed by conventional label-free and SWATH-MS (sequential window acquisition of all theoretical fragment ion spectra mass spectrometry) to assess the (phospho)proteomes. The total number of identified dysregulated phosphoproteins was 214 in the EC, 65 of which were dysregulated at the first stages (I–II) of NFT pathology; 167 phosphoproteins were dysregulated in the FC, 81 of them at stages I–II of NFT pathology. A large percentage of dysregulated phosphoproteins were identified in the two regions and at different stages of NFT progression. The main group of dysregulated phosphoproteins was made up of components of the membranes, cytoskeleton, synapses, proteins linked to membrane transport and ion channels, and kinases. The present results show abnormal phosphorylation of proteins at the first stages of NFT pathology in the elderly (in individuals clinically considered representative of normal aging) and sporadic Alzheimer's disease (sAD). Dysregulated protein phosphorylation in the FC precedes the formation of NFTs and SPs. The most active period of dysregulated phosphorylation is at stages III–IV when a subpopulation of individuals might be clinically categorized as suffering from mild cognitive impairment which is a preceding determinant stage in the progression to dementia. Altered phosphorylation of selected proteins, carried out by activation of several kinases, may alter membrane and cytoskeletal functions, among them synaptic transmission and membrane/cytoskeleton signaling. Besides their implications in sAD, the present observations suggest a molecular substrate for “benign” cognitive deterioration in “normal” brain aging.

JTD Keywords: (phospho)proteomics, alzheimer's disease, amyloid-beta, association guidelines, brain aging, cytoskeleton, frontal-cortex, kinases, lipid rafts, membranes, national institute, neuropathologic assessment, pathological process, protein phosphorylation, synapse pathology, synapses, tau, tau pathology, (phospho)proteomics, Age-related tauopathy, Alzheimer's disease, Brain aging, Cytoskeleton, Kinases, Membranes, Protein phosphorylation, Synapses, Tau


Nashimoto Y, Abe M, Fujii R, Taira N, Ida H, Takahashi Y, Ino K, Ramon-Azcon J, Shiku H, (2021). Topography and Permeability Analyses of Vasculature-on-a-Chip Using Scanning Probe Microscopies Advanced Healthcare Materials 10, 2101186

Microphysiological systems (MPS) or organs-on-chips (OoC) can emulate the physiological functions of organs in vitro and are effective tools for determining human drug responses in preclinical studies. However, the analysis of MPS has relied heavily on optical tools, resulting in difficulties in real-time and high spatial resolution imaging of the target cell functions. In this study, the role of scanning probe microscopy (SPM) as an analytical tool for MPS is evaluated. An access hole is made in a typical MPS system with stacked microchannels to insert SPM probes into the system. For the first study, a simple vascular model composed of only endothelial cells is prepared for SPM analysis. Changes in permeability and local chemical flux are quantitatively evaluated during the construction of the vascular system. The morphological changes in the endothelial cells after flow stimulation are imaged at the single-cell level for topographical analysis. Finally, the possibility of adapting the permeability and topographical analysis using SPM for the intestinal vascular system is further evaluated. It is believed that this study will pave the way for an in situ permeability assay and structural analysis of MPS using SPM.

JTD Keywords: cell, electrochemical microscopy, membrane-permeability, microphysiological systems, organs-chips, platform, scanning electrochemical microscopy, scanning ion conductance microscopy, scanning probe microscopy, shear-stress, surface-topography, Ion conductance microscopy, Microphysiological systems, Organs-chips, Scanning electrochemical microscopy, Scanning ion conductance microscopy, Scanning probe microscopy


Avalos-Padilla Y, Georgiev VN, Dimova R, (2021). ESCRT-III induces phase separation in model membranes prior to budding and causes invagination of the liquid-ordered phase Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes 1863, 183689

Membrane fission triggered by the endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) is an important process observed in several pathogenic and non-pathogenic cellular events. From a synthetic-biology viewpoint, ESCRT proteins represent an interesting machinery for the construction of cell mimetic sub-compartments produced by fission. Since their discovery, the studies on ESCRT-III-mediated action, have mainly focused on protein dynamics, ignoring the role of lipid organization and membrane phase state. Recently, it has been suggested that membrane buds formed by the action of ESCRT-III are generated from transient microdomains in endosomal membranes. However, the interplay between membrane domain formation and ESCRT remodeling pathways has not been investigated. Here, giant unilamellar vesicles made of ternary lipid mixtures, either homogeneous in phase or exhibiting liquid-ordered/liquid-disordered phase coexistence, were employed as a model membrane system. These vesicles were incubated with purified recombinant ESCRT-III proteins from the parasite Entamoeba histolytica. In homogeneous membranes, we observe that EhVps32 can trigger domain formation while EhVps20 preferentially co-localizes in the liquid disordered phase. The addition of EhVps24 appears to induce the formation of intraluminal vesicles produced from the liquid-ordered phase. In phase separated membranes, the intraluminal vesicles are also generated from the liquid-ordered phase and presumably emerge from the phase boundary region. Our findings reinforce the hypothesis that ESCRT-mediated remodeling depends on the membrane phase state. Furthermore, the obtained results point to a potential synthetic biology approach for establishing eukaryotic mimics of artificial cells with microcompartments of specific membrane composition, which can also differ from that of the mother vesicle.

JTD Keywords: cell-membranes, coexistence, complex, escrt-iii, fission, guvs, lipid domains, lipid rafts, membrane fission, microcompartments, microscopy, phase separation, plasma-membrane, protein microarrays, structural basis, ternary mixtures, Escrt-iii, Giant unilamellar vesicles, Guvs, Lipid domains, Membrane fission, Microcompartments, Phase separation, Ternary mixtures


Nyga, Agata, Muñoz, Jose J., Dercksen, Suze, Fornabaio, Giulia, Uroz, Marina, Trepat, Xavier, Baum, Buzz, Matthews, Helen K., Conte, Vito, (2021). Oncogenic RAS instructs morphological transformation of human epithelia via differential tissue mechanics Science Advances 7, eabg6467

Puiggalí-Jou A, Molina BG, Lopes-Rodrigues M, Michaux C, Perpète EA, Zanuy D, Alemán C, (2021). Self-standing, conducting and capacitive biomimetic hybrid nanomembranes for selective molecular ion separation Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 23, 16157-16164

Hybrid free-standing biomimetic materials are developed by integrating the VDAC36 β-barrel protein into robust and flexible three-layered polymer nanomembranes. The first and third layers are prepared by spin-coating a mixture of poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA). PVA nanofeatures are transformed into controlled nanoperforations by solvent-etching. The two nanoperforated PLA layers are separated by an electroactive layer, which is successfully electropolymerized by introducing a conducting sacrificial substrate under the first PLA nanosheet. Finally, the nanomaterial is consolidated by immobilizing the VDAC36 protein, active as an ion channel, into the nanoperforations of the upper layer. The integration of the protein causes a significant reduction of the material resistance, which decreases from 21.9 to 3.9 kΩ cm2. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy studies using inorganic ions and molecular metabolites (i.e.l-lysine and ATP) not only reveal that the hybrid films behave as electrochemical supercapacitors but also indicate the most appropriate conditions to obtain selective responses against molecular ions as a function of their charge. The combination of polymers and proteins is promising for the development of new devices for engineering, biotechnological and biomedical applications.

JTD Keywords: channels, evolution, filter, Outer-membrane proteins


Di Muzio M, Millan-Solsona R, Dols-Perez A, Borrell JH, Fumagalli L, Gomila G, (2021). Dielectric properties and lamellarity of single liposomes measured by in-liquid scanning dielectric microscopy Journal Of Nanobiotechnology 19, 167

Liposomes are widely used as drug delivery carriers and as cell model systems. Here, we measure the dielectric properties of individual liposomes adsorbed on a metal electrode by in-liquid scanning dielectric microscopy in force detection mode. From the measurements the lamellarity of the liposomes, the separation between the lamellae and the specific capacitance of the lipid bilayer can be obtained. As application we considered the case of non-extruded DOPC liposomes with radii in the range ~ 100–800 nm. Uni-, bi- and tri-lamellar liposomes have been identified, with the largest population corresponding to bi-lamellar liposomes. The interlamellar separation in the bi-lamellar liposomes is found to be below ~ 10 nm in most instances. The specific capacitance of the DOPC lipid bilayer is found to be ~ 0.75 µF/cm2 in excellent agreement with the value determined on solid supported planar lipid bilayers. The lamellarity of the DOPC liposomes shows the usual correlation with the liposome's size. No correlation is found, instead, with the shape of the adsorbed liposomes. The proposed approach offers a powerful label-free and non-invasive method to determine the lamellarity and dielectric properties of single liposomes. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

JTD Keywords: constant, force, lamellarity, liposomes, membrane capacitance, model, nanoscale, scanning dielectric microscopy, Lamellarity, Liposomes, Membrane capacitance, Nanoscale, Polarization properties, Scanning dielectric microscopy


Molina, B. G., Lopes-Rodrigues, M., Estrany, F., Michaux, C., Perpète, E. A., Armelin, E., Alemán, C., (2020). Free-standing flexible and biomimetic hybrid membranes for ions and ATP transport Journal of Membrane Science 601, 117931

The transport of metabolites across robust, flexible and free-standing biomimetic membranes made of three perforated poly (lactic acid) (pPLA) layers, separated by two anodically polymerized conducting layers of poly (3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene-co-3-dodecylthiophene), and functionalized on the external pPLA layers with a voltage dependent anion channel (VDAC) protein, has been demonstrated. The three pPLA layers offer robustness and flexibility to the bioactive platform and the possibility of obtaining conducing polymer layers by in situ anodic polymerization. The incorporation of dodecylthiophene units, which bear a 12 carbon atoms long linear alkyl chain, to the conducting layers allows mimicking the amphiphilic environment offered by lipids in cells, increasing 32% the efficiency of the functionalization. Electrochemical impedance measurements in NaCl and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) solutions prove that the integration of the VDAC porin inside the PLA perforations considerably increases the membrane conductivity and is crucial for the electrolyte diffusion. Such results open the door for the development of advanced sensing devices for a broad panel of biomedical applications.

JTD Keywords: Conducting polymers, Membrane proteins, Membranes, Polylactic acid, Self-supported films


Convertino, D., Fabbri, F., Mishra, N., Mainardi, M., Cappello, V., Testa, G., Capsoni, S., Albertazzi, L., Luin, S., Marchetti, L., Coletti, C., (2020). Graphene promotes axon elongation through local stall of nerve growth factor signaling endosomes Nano Letters 20, (5), 3633-3641

Several works reported increased differentiation of neuronal cells grown on graphene; however, the molecular mechanism driving axon elongation on this material has remained elusive. Here, we study the axonal transport of nerve growth factor (NGF), the neurotrophin supporting development of peripheral neurons, as a key player in the time course of axonal elongation of dorsal root ganglion neurons on graphene. We find that graphene drastically reduces the number of retrogradely transported NGF vesicles in favor of a stalled population in the first 2 days of culture, in which the boost of axon elongation is observed. This correlates with a mutual charge redistribution, observed via Raman spectroscopy and electrophysiological recordings. Furthermore, ultrastructural analysis indicates a reduced microtubule distance and an elongated axonal topology. Thus, both electrophysiological and structural effects can account for graphene action on neuron development. Unraveling the molecular players underneath this interplay may open new avenues for axon regeneration applications.

JTD Keywords: Axon elongation, Graphene, Material-neuron interface, Membrane-associated periodic skeleton, Nerve growth factor retrograde transport, Peripheral dorsal root ganglion neuron


Raote, Ishier, Chabanon, Morgan, Walani, Nikhil, Arroyo, Marino, Garcia-Parajo, Maria F., Malhotra, Vivek, Campelo, Felix, (2020). A physical mechanism of TANGO1-mediated bulky cargo export eLife 9, e59426

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-resident protein TANGO1 assembles into a ring around ER exit sites (ERES), and links procollagens in the ER lumen to COPII machinery, tethers, and ER-Golgi intermediate compartment (ERGIC) in the cytoplasm (Raote et al., 2018). Here, we present a theoretical approach to investigate the physical mechanisms of TANGO1 ring assembly and how COPII polymerization, membrane tension, and force facilitate the formation of a transport intermediate for procollagen export. Our results indicate that a TANGO1 ring, by acting as a linactant, stabilizes the open neck of a nascent COPII bud. Elongation of such a bud into a transport intermediate commensurate with bulky procollagens is then facilitated by two complementary mechanisms: (i) by relieving membrane tension, possibly by TANGO1-mediated fusion of retrograde ERGIC membranes and (ii) by force application. Altogether, our theoretical approach identifies key biophysical events in TANGO1-driven procollagen export.

JTD Keywords: Membrane tension, Procollagen export, Secretory pathway, Membrane curvature, Membrane dynamics, Budding


Maiti, B., Abramov, A., Franco, L., Puiggalí, J., Enshaei, H., Alemán, C., Díaz, D. D., (2020). Thermoresponsive shape-memory hydrogel actuators made by phototriggered click chemistry Advanced Functional Materials 30, (24), 2001683

This article describes the design and synthesis of a new series of hydrogel membranes composed of trialkyne derivatives of glycerol ethoxylate and bisphenol A diazide (BA-diazide) or diazide-terminated PEG600 monomer via a Cu(I)-catalyzed photoclick reaction. The water-swollen hydrogel membranes display thermoresponsive actuation and their lower critical solution temperature (LCST) values are determined by differential scanning calorimetry. Glycerol ethoxylate moiety serves as the thermoresponsive component and hydrophilic part, while the azide-based component acts as the hydrophobic comonomer and most likely provides a critical hydrophobic/hydrophilic balance contributing also to the significant mechanical strength of the membranes. These hydrogels exhibit a reversible shape-memory effect in response to temperature through a defined phase transition. The swelling and deswelling behavior of the membranes are systematically examined. Due to the click nature of the reaction, easy availability of azide and alkyne functional-monomers, and the polymer architecture, the glass transition temperature (Tg) is easily controlled through monomer design and crosslink density by varying the feed ratio of different monomers. The mechanical properties of the membranes are studied by universal tensile testing measurements. Moreover, the hydrogels show the ability to absorb a dye and release it in a controlled manner by applying heat below and above the LCST.

JTD Keywords: Hydrogels, Membranes, Photoclick, Polymers, Shape-memory, Thermoresponsive


Roux, Anabel-Lise Lee, Quiroga, Xarxa, Walani, Nikhil, Arroyo, Marino, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, (2019). The plasma membrane as a mechanochemical transducer Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 374, (1779), 20180221

Cells are constantly submitted to external mechanical stresses, which they must withstand and respond to. By forming a physical boundary between cells and their environment that is also a biochemical platform, the plasma membrane (PM) is a key interface mediating both cellular response to mechanical stimuli, and subsequent biochemical responses. Here, we review the role of the PM as a mechanosensing structure. We first analyse how the PM responds to mechanical stresses, and then discuss how this mechanical response triggers downstream biochemical responses. The molecular players involved in PM mechanochemical transduction include sensors of membrane unfolding, membrane tension, membrane curvature or membrane domain rearrangement. These sensors trigger signalling cascades fundamental both in healthy scenarios and in diseases such as cancer, which cells harness to maintain integrity, keep or restore homeostasis and adapt to their external environment.

JTD Keywords: Plasma membrane, Mechanotransduction, Membrane tension, Mechanosensor


Tozzi, C., Walani, N., Arroyo, M., (2019). Out-of-equilibrium mechanochemistry and self-organization of fluid membranes interacting with curved proteins New Journal of Physics 21, (9), 093004

The function of biological membranes is controlled by the interaction of the fluid lipid bilayer with various proteins, some of which induce or react to curvature. These proteins can preferentially bind or diffuse towards curved regions of the membrane, induce or stabilize membrane curvature and sequester membrane area into protein-rich curved domains. The resulting tight interplay between mechanics and chemistry is thought to control organelle morphogenesis and dynamics, including traffic, membrane mechanotransduction, or membrane area regulation and tension buffering. Despite all these processes are fundamentally dynamical, previous work has largely focused on equilibrium and a self-consistent theoretical treatment of the dynamics of curvature sensing and generation has been lacking. Here, we develop a general theoretical and computational framework based on a nonlinear Onsager's formalism of irreversible thermodynamics for the dynamics of curved proteins and membranes. We develop variants of the model, one of which accounts for membrane curving by asymmetric crowding of bulky off-membrane protein domains. As illustrated by a selection of test cases, the resulting governing equations and numerical simulations provide a foundation to understand the dynamics of curvature sensing, curvature generation, and more generally membrane curvature mechano-chemistry.

JTD Keywords: Curvature generation, Curvature sensing, Lipid bilayers, Membrane proteins


Torres-Sanchez, A., Millan, D., Arroyo, M., (2019). Modelling fluid deformable surfaces with an emphasis on biological interfaces Journal of Fluid Mechanics 872, 218-271

Fluid deformable surfaces are ubiquitous in cell and tissue biology, including lipid bilayers, the actomyosin cortex or epithelial cell sheets. These interfaces exhibit a complex interplay between elasticity, low Reynolds number interfacial hydrodynamics, chemistry and geometry, and govern important biological processes such as cellular traffic, division, migration or tissue morphogenesis. To address the modelling challenges posed by this class of problems, in which interfacial phenomena tightly interact with the shape and dynamics of the surface, we develop a general continuum mechanics and computational framework for fluid deformable surfaces. The dual solid–fluid nature of fluid deformable surfaces challenges classical Lagrangian or Eulerian descriptions of deforming bodies. Here, we extend the notion of arbitrarily Lagrangian–Eulerian (ALE) formulations, well-established for bulk media, to deforming surfaces. To systematically develop models for fluid deformable surfaces, which consistently treat all couplings between fields and geometry, we follow a nonlinear Onsager formalism according to which the dynamics minimizes a Rayleighian functional where dissipation, power input and energy release rate compete. Finally, we propose new computational methods, which build on Onsager’s formalism and our ALE formulation, to deal with the resulting stiff system of higher-order partial differential equations. We apply our theoretical and computational methodology to classical models for lipid bilayers and the cell cortex. The methods developed here allow us to formulate/simulate these models in their full three-dimensional generality, accounting for finite curvatures and finite shape changes.

JTD Keywords: Capsule/cell dynamics, Computational methods, Membranes


Gumí-Audenis, B., Giannotti, M. I., (2019). Structural and mechanical characterization of supported model membranes by AFM Biomimetic Lipid Membranes: Fundamentals, Applications, and Commercialization (ed. Kök, Fatma N., Arslan Yildiz, Ahu, Inci, Fatih), Springer International Publishing (Cham, Germany) , 1-27

Several cellular processes, including adhesion, signaling and transcription, endocytosis, and membrane resealing, among others, involve conformational changes such as bending, vesiculation, and tubulation. These mechanisms generally involve membrane separation from the cytoskeleton as well as strong bending, for which the membrane chemical composition and physicochemical properties, often highly localized and dynamic, are key players. The mechanical role of the lipid membrane in force triggered (or sensing) mechanisms in cells is important, and understanding the lipid bilayers’ physical and mechanical properties is essential to comprehend their contribution to the overall membrane. Atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based experimental approaches have been to date very valuable to deepen into these aspects. As a stand-alone, high-resolution imaging technique and force transducer with the possibility to operate in aqueous environment, it defies most other surface instrumentation in ease of use, sensitivity and versatility. In this chapter, we introduce the different AFM-based methods to assess topological and nanomechanical information on model membranes, specifically to supported lipid bilayers (SLBs), including several examples ranging from pure phospholipid homogeneous bilayers to multicomponent and phase-separated SLBs, increasing the bilayer complexity, in the direction of mimicking biological membranes.

JTD Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Force spectroscopy, Model membranes, Nanomechanics, Supported lipid bilayers


Crespo-Villanueva, Adrián, Gumí-Audenis, Berta, Sanz, Fausto, Artzner, Franck, Mériadec, Cristelle, Rousseau, Florence, Lopez, Christelle, Giannotti, M. I., Guyomarc'h, Fanny, (2018). Casein interaction with lipid membranes: Are the phase state or charge density of the phospholipids affecting protein adsorption? Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes 1860, (12), 2588-2598

Casein micelles are ~200 nm electronegative particles that constitute 80 wt% of the milk proteins. During synthesis in the lactating mammary cells, caseins are thought to interact in the form of ~20 nm assemblies, directly with the biological membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum and/or the Golgi apparatus. However, conditions that drive this interaction are not yet known. Atomic force microscopy imaging and force spectroscopy were used to directly observe the adsorption of casein particles on supported phospholipid bilayers with controlled compositions to vary their phase state and surface charge density, as verified by X-ray diffraction and zetametry. At pH 6.7, the casein particles adsorbed onto bilayer phases with zwitterionic and liquid-disordered phospholipid molecules, but not on phases with anionic or ordered phospholipids. Furthermore, the presence of adsorbed caseins altered the stability of the yet exposed bilayer. Considering their respective compositions and symmetry/asymmetry, these results cast light on the possible interactions of casein assemblies with the organelles’ membranes of the lactating mammary cells.

JTD Keywords: Casein proteins, Phospholipid membrane, Supported lipid bilayer, Atomic force microscopy


Gumí-Audenis, Berta, Costa, Luca, Carlá, Francesco, Comin, Fabio, Sanz, Fausto, Giannotti, M. I., (2016). Structure and nanomechanics of model membranes by atomic force microscopy and spectroscopy: Insights into the role of cholesterol and sphingolipids Membranes , 6, (4), 58

Biological membranes mediate several biological processes that are directly associated with their physical properties but sometimes difficult to evaluate. Supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) are model systems widely used to characterize the structure of biological membranes. Cholesterol (Chol) plays an essential role in the modulation of membrane physical properties. It directly influences the order and mechanical stability of the lipid bilayers, and it is known to laterally segregate in rafts in the outer leaflet of the membrane together with sphingolipids (SLs). Atomic force microscope (AFM) is a powerful tool as it is capable to sense and apply forces with high accuracy, with distance and force resolution at the nanoscale, and in a controlled environment. AFM-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS) has become a crucial technique to study the nanomechanical stability of SLBs by controlling the liquid media and the temperature variations. In this contribution, we review recent AFM and AFM-FS studies on the effect of Chol on the morphology and mechanical properties of model SLBs, including complex bilayers containing SLs. We also introduce a promising combination of AFM and X-ray (XR) techniques that allows for in situ characterization of dynamic processes, providing structural, morphological, and nanomechanical information

JTD Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Force spectroscopy, Lipid membranes, Supported lipid bilayers, Nanomechanics, Cholesterol, Sphingolipids, Membrane structure, XR-AFM combination


Sanmartí-Espinal, M., Galve, R., Iavicoli, P., Persuy, M. A., Pajot-Augy, E., Marco, M. P., Samitier, J., (2016). Immunochemical strategy for quantification of G-coupled olfactory receptor proteins on natural nanovesicles Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 139, 269-276

Cell membrane proteins are involved in a variety of biochemical pathways and therefore constitute important targets for therapy and development of new drugs. Bioanalytical platforms and binding assays using these membrane protein receptors for drug screening or diagnostic require the construction of well-characterized liposome and lipid bilayer arrays that act as support to prevent protein denaturation during biochip processing. Quantification of the protein receptors in the lipid membrane arrays is a key issue in order to produce reproducible and well-characterized chips. Herein, we report a novel immunochemical analytical approach for the quantification of membrane proteins (i.e., G-protein-coupled receptor, GPCR) in nanovesicles (NVs). The procedure allows direct determination of tagged receptors (i.e., c-myc tag) without any previous protein purification or extraction steps. The immunochemical method is based on a microplate ELISA format and quantifies this tag on proteins embedded in NVs with detectability in the picomolar range, using protein bioconjugates as reference standards. The applicability of the method is demonstrated through the quantification of the c-myc-olfactory receptor (OR, c-myc-OR1740) in the cell membrane NVs. The reported method opens the possibility to develop well-characterized drug-screening platforms based on G-coupled proteins embedded on membranes.

JTD Keywords: Bioelectronic nose, Competitive ELISA, G-protein-coupled receptors quantification, Natural vesicles, Olfactory receptors, Transmembrane proteins


A. R. Dalton, J., Lans, I., Rovira, X., Malhaire, F., Gómez-Santacana, X., Pittolo, S., Gorostiza, P., Llebaria, A., Goudet, C., Pin, J-P., Giraldo, J., (2016). Shining light on an mGlu5 photoswitchable NAM: A theoretical perspective Current Neuropharmacology , 14, (5), 441-454

Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) are important drug targets because of their involvement in several neurological diseases. Among mGluRs, mGlu5 is a particularly high-profile target because its positive or negative allosteric modulation can potentially treat schizophrenia or anxiety and chronic pain, respectively. Here, we computationally and experimentally probe the functional binding of a novel photoswitchable mGlu5 NAM, termed alloswitch-1, which loses its NAM functionality under violet light. We show alloswitch-1 binds deep in the allosteric pocket in a similar fashion to mavoglurant, the co-crystallized NAM in the mGlu5 transmembrane domain crystal structure. Alloswitch-1, like NAM 2-Methyl-6-(phenylethynyl)pyridine (MPEP), is significantly affected by P655M mutation deep in the allosteric pocket, eradicating its functionality. In MD simulations, we show alloswitch-1 and MPEP stabilize the co-crystallized water molecule located at the bottom of the allosteric site that is seemingly characteristic of the inactive receptor state. Furthermore, both NAMs form H-bonds with S809 on helix 7, which may constitute an important stabilizing interaction for NAM-induced mGlu5 inactivation. Alloswitch-1, through isomerization of its amide group from trans to cis is able to form an additional interaction with N747 on helix 5. This may be an important interaction for amide-containing mGlu5 NAMs, helping to stabilize their binding in a potentially unusual cis-amide state. Simulated conformational switching of alloswitch-1 in silico suggests photoisomerization of its azo group from trans to cis may be possible within the allosteric pocket. However, photoexcited alloswitch-1 binds in an unstable fashion, breaking H-bonds with the protein and destabilizing the co-crystallized water molecule. This suggests photoswitching may have destabilizing effects on mGlu5 binding and functionality.

JTD Keywords: Allosteric modulation, Docking, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Molecular dynamics, Mutation, Protein structure, Transmembrane domain


Hoyo, J., Guaus, E., Torrent-Burgués, J., Sanz, F., (2015). Biomimetic monolayer films of digalactosyldiacylglycerol incorporating plastoquinone Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes , 1848, (6), 1341-1351

The photosynthesis is the process used by plants and bacteria cells to convert inorganic matter in organic thanks to the light energy. This process consist on several steps, being one of them the electronic transport from the photosystem II to the cytochrome thanks to plastoquinone-9 (PQ). Here we prepare membranes that mimic the characteristics and composition of natural photosynthetic cell membranes and we characterize them in order to obtain the PQ molecules position in the membrane and their electrochemical behaviour. The selected galactolipid is digalactosyldiacylglycerol (DGDG) that represents the 30% of the thylakoid membrane lipid content. The results obtained are worthful for several science fields due to the relevance of galactolipids as anti-algal, anti-viral, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory agents and the antioxidant and free radical scavenger properties of prenylquinones. Both pure components (DGDG and PQ) and the DGDG:PQ mixtures have been studied using surface pressure-area isotherms. These isotherms give information about the film stability and indicate the thermodynamic behaviour of the mixture and their physical state. The Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) film has been transferred forming a monolayer that mimics the bottom layer of the biological membranes. This monolayer on mica has been topographically characterized using AFM and both the height and the physical state that they present have been obtained. Moreover, these monolayers have been transferred onto ITO that is a hydrophilic substrate with good optical and electrical features, so that, it is suitable for studying the electrochemical behaviour of these systems and it is a good candidate for energy producing devices.

JTD Keywords: Biomimetic membrane, Digalactosyldiacylglycerol, Electron transfer, LangmuirBlodgett film, Modified ITO electrode, Plastoquinone


Gumí-Audenis, B., Carlà, F., Vitorino, M. V., Panzarella, A., Porcar, L., Boilot, M., Guerber, S., Bernard, P., Rodrigues, M. S., Sanz, F., Giannotti, M. I., Costa, L., (2015). Custom AFM for X-ray beamlines: in situ biological investigations under physiological conditions Journal of Synchrotron Radiation , 22, 1364-1371

A fast atomic force microscope (AFM) has been developed that can be installed as a sample holder for grazing-incidence X-ray experiments at solid/gas or solid/liquid interfaces. It allows a wide range of possible investigations, including soft and biological samples under physiological conditions (hydrated specimens). The structural information obtained using the X-rays is combined with the data gathered with the AFM (morphology and mechanical properties), providing a unique characterization of the specimen and its dynamics in situ during an experiment. In this work, lipid monolayers and bilayers in air or liquid environment have been investigated by means of AFM, both with imaging and force spectroscopy, and X-ray reflectivity. In addition, this combination allows the radiation damage induced by the beam on the sample to be studied, as has been observed on DOPC and DPPC supported lipid bilayers under physiological conditions.

JTD Keywords: In situ atomic force microscopy, Grazing-incidence scattering and reflectivity, Radiation damage, Model lipid membranes


Mir, M., Lugo, R., Tahirbegi, I. B., Samitier, J., (2014). Miniaturizable ion-selective arrays based on highly stable polymer membranes for biomedical applications Sensors 14, (7), 11844-11854

Poly(vinylchloride) (PVC) is the most common polymer matrix used in the fabrication of ion-selective electrodes (ISEs). However, the surfaces of PVC-based sensors have been reported to show membrane instability. In an attempt to overcome this limitation, here we developed two alternative methods for the preparation of highly stable and robust ion-selective sensors. These platforms are based on the selective electropolymerization of poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT), where the sulfur atoms contained in the polymer covalently interact with the gold electrode, also permitting controlled selective attachment on a miniaturized electrode in an array format. This platform sensor was improved with the crosslinking of the membrane compounds with poly(ethyleneglycol) diglycidyl ether (PEG), thus also increasing the biocompatibility of the sensor. The resulting ISE membranes showed faster signal stabilization of the sensor response compared with that of the PVC matrix and also better reproducibility and stability, thus making these platforms highly suitable candidates for the manufacture of robust implantable sensors.

JTD Keywords: Biomedicine, Electrochemistry, Endoscope, Implantable device, Ion-selective electrode (ISE) sensor, Ischemia, pH detection, Biocompatibility, Chemical sensors, Electrochemistry, Electrodes, Electropolymerization, Endoscopy, Functional polymers, Implants (surgical), Ion selective electrodes, Medical applications, Polyvinyl chlorides, Stabilization, Biomedical applications, Biomedicine, Implantable devices, Ion selective sensors, Ischemia, Membrane instability, pH detection, Poly(3 ,4 ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT), Ion selective membranes


Tajes, M., Ramos-Fernández, E., Weng-Jiang, X., Bosch-Morató, M., Guivernau, B., Eraso-Pichot, A., Salvador, B., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Roquer, J., Muñoz, F. J., (2014). The blood-brain barrier: Structure, function and therapeutic approaches to cross it Molecular Membrane Biology , 31, (5), 152-167

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is constituted by a specialized vascular endothelium that interacts directly with astrocytes, neurons and pericytes. It protects the brain from the molecules of the systemic circulation but it has to be overcome for the proper treatment of brain cancer, psychiatric disorders or neurodegenerative diseases, which are dramatically increasing as the population ages. In the present work we have revised the current knowledge on the cellular structure of the BBB and the different procedures utilized currently and those proposed to cross it. Chemical modifications of the drugs, such as increasing their lipophilicity, turn them more prone to be internalized in the brain. Other mechanisms are the use of molecular tools to bind the drugs such as small immunoglobulins, liposomes or nanoparticles that will act as Trojan Horses favoring the drug delivery in brain. This fusion of the classical pharmacology with nanotechnology has opened a wide field to many different approaches with promising results to hypothesize that BBB will not be a major problem for the new generation of neuroactive drugs. The present review provides an overview of all state-of-the-art of the BBB structure and function, as well as of the classic strategies and these appeared in recent years to deliver drugs into the brain for the treatment of Central Nervous System (CNS) diseases.

JTD Keywords: Blood brain barrier, Drug delivery, Membrane transport


Mendes, A. C., Smith, K. H., Tejeda-Montes, E., Engel, E., Reis, R. L., Azevedo, H. S., Mata, Alvaro, (2013). Co-assembled and microfabricated bioactive membranes Advanced Functional Materials 23, (4), 430-438

The fabrication of hierarchical and bioactive self-supporting membranes, which integrate physical and biomolecular elements, using a single-step process that combines molecular self-assembly with soft lithography is reported. A positively charged multidomain peptide (with or without the cell-adhesive sequence arginine-glycine-aspartic acid-serine (RGDS)) self-assembles with hyaluronic acid (HA), an anionic biopolymer. Optimization of the assembling conditions enables the realization of membranes with well-controlled and easily tunable features at multiple size scales including peptide sequence, building-block co-assembly, membrane thickness, bioactive epitope availability, and topographical pattern morphology. Membrane structure, morphology, and bioactivity are investigated according to temperature, assembly time, and variations in the experimental setup. Furthermore, to evaluate the physical and biomolecular signaling of the self-assembled microfabricated membranes, rat mesenchymal stem cells are cultured on membranes exhibiting various densities of RGDS and different topographical patterns. Cell adhesion, spreading, and morphology are significantly affected by the surface topographical patterns and the different concentrations of RGDS. The versatility of the combined bottom-up and top-down fabrication processes described may permit the development of hierarchical macrostructures with precise biomolecular and physical properties and the opportunity to fine tune them with spatiotemporal control.

JTD Keywords: Membrane scaffolds, Mesenchymal stem cells, Microfabrication, Self-assembly, Topography


Esteban, O., Christ, D., Stock, D., (2013). Purification of molecular machines and nanomotors using phage-derived monoclonal antibody fragments Protein Nanotechnology - Methods in Molecular Biology (ed. Gerrard, J. A.), Humana Press (New York, USA) 996, 203-217

Molecular machines and nanomotors are sophisticated biological assemblies that convert potential energy stored either in transmembrane ion gradients or in ATP into kinetic energy. Studying these highly dynamic biological devices by X-ray crystallography is challenging, as they are difficult to produce, purify, and crystallize. Phage display technology allows us to put a handle on these molecules in the form of highly specific antibody fragments that can also stabilize conformations and allow versatile labelling for electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and biophysics experiments. Here, we describe a widely applicable protocol for selecting high-affinity monoclonal antibody fragments against a complex molecular machine, the A-type ATPase from T. thermophilus that allows fast and simple purification of this transmembrane rotary motor from its wild-type source. The approach can be readily extended to other integral membrane proteins and protein complexes as well as to soluble molecular machines and nanomotors.

JTD Keywords: ATP synthase, Crystallization, Domain antibodies, Electron microscopy, Labelling, Membrane proteins, Monoclonal antibody fragments, Phage display, Protein purification, X-ray crystallography


Tejeda-Montes, E., Smith, K. H., Poch, M., López-Bosque, M. J., Martín, L., Alonso, M., Engel, E., Mata, Alvaro., (2012). Engineering membrane scaffolds with both physical and biomolecular signaling Acta Biomaterialia 8, (3), 998-1009

We report on the combination of a top-down and bottom-up approach to develop thin bioactive membrane scaffolds based on functional elastin-like polymers (ELPs). Our strategy combines ELP cross-linking and assembly, and a variety of standard and novel micro/nanofabrication techniques to create self-supporting membranes down to ∼500 nm thick that incorporate both physical and biomolecular signals, which can be easily tailored for a specific application. In this study we used an ELP that included the cell-binding motif arginine-glycine-aspartic acid-serine (RGDS). Furthermore, fabrication processes were developed to create membranes that exhibited topographical patterns with features down to 200 nm in lateral dimensions and up to 10 μm in height on either one or both sides, uniform and well-defined pores, or multiple ELP layers. A variety of processing parameters were tested in order to optimize membrane fabrication, including ELP and cross-linker concentration, temperature, reaction time and ambient humidity. Membrane micro/nanopatterning, swelling and stiffness were characterized by atomic force microscopy, nanoindentation tests and scanning electron microscopy. Upon immersion in phosphate-buffered saline and an increase in temperature from 25 to 40°C, membranes exhibited a significant increase in surface stiffness, with the reduced Young's modulus increasing with temperature. Finally, rat mesenchymal stem cells were cultured on thin RGDS-containing membranes, which allowed cell adhesion, qualitatively enhanced spreading compared to membranes without RGDS epitopes and permitted proliferation. Furthermore, cell morphology was drastically affected by topographical patterns on the surface of the membranes.

JTD Keywords: Elastin-like polymers, Membranes, Nanotechnology, Scaffolds, Tissue engineering


Redondo-Morata, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2012). AFM-based force-clamp monitors lipid bilayer failure kinetics Langmuir 28, (15), 6403-6410

The lipid bilayer rupture phenomenon is here explored by means of atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based force clamp, for the first time to our knowledge, to evaluate how lipid membranes respond when compressed under an external constant force, in the range of nanonewtons. Using this method, we were able to directly quantify the kinetics of the membrane rupture event and the associated energy barriers, for both single supported bilayers and multibilayers, in contradistinction to the classic studies performed at constant velocity. Moreover, the affected area of the membrane during the rupture process was calculated using an elastic deformation model. The elucidated information not only contributes to a better understanding of such relevant process, but also proves the suitability of AFM-based force clamp to study model structures as lipid bilayers. These findings on the kinetics of lipid bilayers rupture could be extended and applied to the study of other molecular thin films. Furthermore, systems of higher complexity such as models mimicking cell membranes could be studied by means of AFM-based force-clamp technique.

JTD Keywords: Chain-Length, Spectroscopy, Nanomechanics, Microscopy, Elasticity, Stability, Membranes, Reveals, Fusion, Ions


Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2012). The role of nanophotonics in regenerative medicine Nanotechnology in Regenerative Medicine - Methods and Protocols (Methods in Molecular Biology) (ed. Navarro, M., Planell, J. A.), Springer (New York, USA) 811, 267-284

Cells respond to biochemical and mechanical stimuli through a series of steps that begin at the molecular, nanometre level, and translate finally in global cell response. Defects in biochemical- and/or mechanical-sensing, transduction or cellular response are the cause of multiple diseases, including cancer and immune disorders among others. Within the booming field of regenerative medicine, there is an increasing need for developing and applying nanotechnology tools to bring understanding on the cellular machinery and molecular interactions at the nanoscale. Nanotechnology, nanophotonics and in particular, high-resolution-based fluorescence approaches are already delivering crucial information on the way that cells respond to their environment and how they organize their receptors to perform specialized functions. This chapter focuses on emerging super-resolution optical techniques, summarizing their principles, technical implementation, and reviewing some of the achievements reached so far.

JTD Keywords: Cell membrane organization, Nanophotonics, Near-field optical microscopy, Super-resolution optical microscopy


Redondo, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2012). Stability of lipid bilayers as model membranes: Atomic force microscopy and spectroscopy approach Atomic force microscopy in liquid (ed. Baró, A. M., Reifenberger, R. G.), Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co.KGaA (Weinheim, Germany) Part I: General Atomic Force Microscopy, 259-284

van Zanten, T. S., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2012). Super-resolution near-field optical microscopy Comprehensive Biophysics (ed. Egelman, E. H.), Elsevier (Desdren, Germany) Volume 2: Biophysical Techniques for Characterization of Cells, 144-164

Near-field optical microscopy is a technique not limited by the laws of diffraction that enables simultaneous high-resolution fluorescence and topographic measurements at the nanometer scale. This chapter highlights the intrinsic advantages of near-field optics in the study of cellular structures. The first part of the chapter lays the foundations of the near-field concept and technical implementation of near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM), whereas the second part of the chapter focuses on applications of NSOM to the study of model membranes and cellular structures on the plasma membrane. The last part of the chapter discusses further directions of near-field optics, including optical antennas and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy approaches in the near-field regime.

JTD Keywords: Biological membranes, Cell membrane nanoscale compartmentalization, Cellular nanodomains, Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy in reduced volumes, Immunoreceptor imaging, Lipid rafts, Near-field scanning optical microscopy, Optical nano-antennas, Shear force imaging, Single molecule detection, Super-resolution microscopy


Gauthier, Nils C., Fardin, Marc Antoine, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Sheetz, Michael P., (2011). Temporary increase in plasma membrane tension coordinates the activation of exocytosis and contraction during cell spreading Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, (35), 14467-14472

Cell migration and spreading involve the coordination of membrane trafficking, actomyosin contraction, and modifications to plasma membrane tension and area. The biochemical or biophysical basis for this coordination is however unknown. In this study, we show that during cell spreading, lamellipodia protrusion flattens plasma membrane folds and blebs and, once the plasma membrane area is depleted, there is a temporary increase in membrane tension by over twofold that is followed by activation of exocytosis and myosin contraction. Further, an artificial increase in plasma membrane tension stopped lamellipodia protrusion and activated an exocytotic burst. Subsequent decrease in tension restored spreading with activation of contraction. Conversely, blebbistatin inhibition of actomyosin contraction resulted in an even greater increase in plasma membrane tension and exocytosis activation. This spatio-temporal synchronization indicates that membrane tension is the signal that coordinates membrane trafficking, actomyosin contraction, and plasma membrane area change. We suggest that cells use plasma membrane tension as a global physical parameter to control cell motility.

JTD Keywords: Surface-area regulation, Cytoskeleton adhesion, Erythrocyte-membrane, Extensional flow, Elastic tether, Force


Miranda Coelho, Nuno, Gonzalez-Garcia, Cristina, Salmeron-Sanchez, Manuel, Altankov, George, (2011). Arrangement of type IV collagen and laminin on substrates with controlled density of -OH groups Tissue Engineering Part A , 17, (17-18), 2245-2257

Collagen IV (Col IV) and laminin (Lam) are the main structural components of the basement membrane where they form two overlapping polymeric networks. We studied the adsorption pattern of these proteins on five model surfaces with tailored density of -OH groups obtained by copolymerization of different ratios ethyl acrylate (EA) and hydroxyl EA (HEA): X(OH) = 0, X(OH) = 0.3, X(OH) = 0.5, X(OH) = 0.7, and X(OH) = 1 (where X refers the ratio of HEA). Atomic force microscopy revealed substratum-specific adsorption patterns of Col IV and Lam, ranging from single molecules deposition on more hydrophilic substrata to the formation of complex networks on hydrophobic ones. Human umbilical endothelial cells were used to study the biological performance of adsorbed proteins, following the overall cell morphology, the quantities for cell adhesion and spreading, and the development of focal adhesion complexes and actin cytoskeleton. Surprisingly, two optima in the cellular interaction were observed-one on the most hydrophilic X(OH) = 1 and other on the relatively hydrophobic X(OH) = 0.3 substrate-valid for both Col IV and Lam. When the proteins were adsorbed consecutively, a hydrophobic shift to X(OH) = 0 substratum was obtained. Collectively, these data suggest that varying with the density of -OH groups one can tailor the conformation and the functional activity of adsorbed basement membrane proteins.

JTD Keywords: Atomic-force microscopy, Fibronectin adsorption, Basement-membranes, Polymer surfaces, Cell-adhesion, Biomaterials, Wettability, Fibrinogen


Sánchez-Martín, M. J., Urbán, P., Pujol, M., Haro, I., Alsina, M. A., Busquets, M. A., (2011). Biophysical investigations of GBV-C E1 peptides as potential inhibitors of HIV-1 fusion peptide ChemPhysChem , 12, (15), 2816-2822

Five peptide sequences corresponding to the E1 protein of GBV-C [NCCAPEDIGFCLEGGCLV (P7), APEDIGFCLEGGCLVALG (P8), FCLEGGCLVALGCTICTD (P10), QAGLAVRPGKSAAQLVGE (P18), and AQLVGELGSLYGPLSVSA (P22)] were synthesized because they were capable of interfering with the HIV-1 fusion peptide (HIV-1 FP)-vesicle interaction. In this work the interaction of these peptides with the HIV-1 FP, as well as with membrane models, was analyzed to corroborate their inhibition ability and to understand if the interaction with the fusion peptide takes place in solution or at the membrane level. Several studies were carried out on aggregation and membrane fusion, surface Plasmon resonance, and conformational analysis by circular dichroism. Moreover, in vitro toxicity assays, including cytotoxicity studies in 3T3 fibroblasts and hemolysis assays in human red blood cells, were performed to evaluate if these peptides could be potentially used in anti-HIV-1 therapy. Results show that P10 is not capable of inhibiting membrane fusion caused by HIV-1 and it aggregates liposomes and fuses membranes, thus we decided to discard it for futures studies. P18 and P22 do not inhibit membrane fusion, but they inhibit the ability of HIV-1 FP to form pores in bilayers, thus we have not discarded them yet. P7 and P8 were selected as the best candidates for future studies because they are capable of inhibiting membrane fusion and the interaction of HIV-1 FP with bilayers. Therefore, these peptides could be potentially used in future anti-HIV-1 research. Part of the gang: Liposomes are deposited on a surface plasmon resonance chip (see AFM image of the chip) to observe the interaction of peptides corresponding to the E1 envelop protein of the hepatitis G virus with membranes to show how they reduce the interaction of the HIV-1 fusion peptide.

JTD Keywords: HIV-1 fusion protein, Liposomes, Membranes, Peptides, Viruses


van Zanten, T. S., Gomez, J., Manzo, C., Cambi, A., Buceta, J., Reigada, R., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2010). Direct mapping of nanoscale compositional connectivity on intact cell membranes Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107, (35), 15437-15442

Lateral segregation of cell membranes is accepted as a primary mechanism for cells to regulate a diversity of cellular functions. In this context, lipid rafts have been conceptualized as organizing principle of biological membranes where underlying cholesterol-mediated selective connectivity must exist even at the resting state. However, such a level of nanoscale compositional connectivity has been challenging to prove. Here we used single-molecule near-field scanning optical microscopy to visualize the nanolandscape of raft ganglioside GM1 after tightening by its ligand cholera toxin (CTxB) on intact cell membranes. We show that CTxB tightening of GM1 is sufficient to initiate a minimal raft coalescence unit, resulting in the formation of cholesterol-dependent GM1 nanodomains <120 nm in size. This particular arrangement appeared independent of cell type and GM1 expression level on the membrane. Simultaneous dual color high-resolution images revealed that GPI anchored and certain transmembrane proteins were recruited to regions proximal (<150 nm) to CTxB-GM1 nanodomains without physical intermixing. Together with in silico experiments, our high-resolution data conclusively demonstrate the existence of raft-based interconnectivity at the nanoscale. Such a linked state on resting cell membranes constitutes thus an obligatory step toward the hierarchical evolution of large-scale raft coalescence upon cell activation.

JTD Keywords: Cholera toxin, Membrane heterogeneity, Near-field scanning optical microscopy, Raft ganglioside GM1, Single-molecule detection


Garcia-Manyes, S., Redondo-Morata, L., Oncins, G., Sanz, F., (2010). Nanomechanics of lipid bilayers: Heads or tails? Journal of the American Chemical Society American Chemical Society 132, (37), 12874-12886

Understanding the effect of mechanical stress on membranes is of primary importance in biophysics. Here we use force spectroscopy AFM to quantitatively characterize the nanomechanical stability of supported lipid bilayers as a function of their chemical composition. The onset of plastic deformation reveals itself as a repetitive jump in the approaching force curve, which represents a molecular fingerprint for the bilayer mechanical stability. By systematically probing a set of chemically distinct supported lipid bilayers (SLBs), we first show that both the headgroup and tail have a decisive effect on their mechanical properties. While the mechanical stability of the probed SLBs linearly increases by 3.3 nN upon the introduction of each additional -CH2- in the chain, it exhibits a significant dependence on the phospholipid headgroup, ranging from 3 nN for DPPA to 66 nN for DPPG. Furthermore, we also quantify the reduction of the membrane mechanical stability as a function of the number of unsaturations and molecular branching in the chemical structure of the apolar tails. Finally, we demonstrate that, upon introduction of cholesterol and ergosterol, contrary to previous belief the mechanical stability of membranes not only increases linearly in the liquid phase (DLPC) but also for phospholipids present in the gel phase (DPPC). Our results are discussed in the framework of the continuum nucleation model. This work highlights the compelling effect of subtle variations in the chemical structure of phospholipid molecules on the membrane response when exposed to mechanical forces, a mechanism of common occurrence in nature.

JTD Keywords: Atomic-force microscopy, Molecular-dynamics simulation, Aqueous-electrolyte solutions, Supported planar membranes, Phospholipid-bilayers, Biological-membranes, Physical-properties, Fluid membranes, Model membranes, Chain-length


van Zanten, Thomas S., Lopez-Bosque, M. J . , Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2010). Imaging individual proteins and nanodomains on intact cell membranes with a probe-based optical antenna Small 6, (2), 270-275

Optical antennas that confine and enhance electromagnetic fields in a nanometric region hold great potential for nanobioimaging and biosensing. Probe-based monopole optical antennas are fabricated to enhance fields localized to <30 nm near the antenna apex in aqueous conditions. These probes are used under appropriate excitation antenna conditions to image individual antibodies with an unprecedented resolution of 26 ± 4 nm and virtually no surrounding background. On intact cell membranes in physiological conditions, the obtained resolution is 30 ± 6 nm. Importantly, the method allows individual proteins to be distinguished from nanodomains and the degree of clustering to be quantified by directly measuring physical size and intensity of individual fluorescent spots. Improved antenna geometries should lead to true live cell imaging below 10-nm resolution with position accuracy in the subnanometric range.

JTD Keywords: Cell membranes, Cell receptors, Focused ion beam milling, Nanodomains, Optical antennas


Rodriguez-Villarreal, A. I., Arundell, M., Carmona, M., Samitier, J., (2010). High flow rate microfluidic device for blood plasma separation using a range of temperatures Lab on a Chip 10, (2), 211-219

A hybrid microfluidic device that uses hydrodynamic forces to separate human plasma from blood cells has been designed and fabricated and the advantageous effects of temperature and flow rates are investigated in this paper. The blood separating device includes an inlet which is reduced by approximately 20 times to a small constrictor channel, which then opens out to a larger output channel with a small lateral channel for the collection of plasma. When tested the device separated plasma from whole blood using a wide range of flow rates, between 50 mu l min(-1) and 200 mu l min(-1), at the higher flow rates injected by hand and at temperatures ranging from 23 degrees C to 50 degrees C, the latter resulting in an increase in the cell-free layer of up to 250%. It was also tested continuously using between 5% and 40% erythrocytes in plasma and whole blood without blocking the channels or hemolysis of the cells. The mean percentage of plasma collected after separation was 3.47% from a sample of 1 ml. The percentage of cells removed from the plasma varied depending on the flow rate used, but at 37 degrees C ranged between 95.4 +/- 1% and 97.05 +/- 05% at 100 mu l min(-1) and 200 mu l min(-1), respectively. The change in temperature also had an effect on the number of cells removed from the plasma which was between 93.5 +/- 0.65% and 97.01 +/- 0.3% at 26.9 degrees C and 37 degrees C, respectively, using a flow rate of 100 mu l min(-1). Due to its ability to operate in a wide range of conditions, it is envisaged that this device can be used in in vitro 'lab on a chip' applications, as well as a hand-held point of care (POC) device.

JTD Keywords: On-a-chip, Cells, Viscosity, Membrane


van Zanten, T. S., Cambi, A., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2010). A nanometer scale optical view on the compartmentalization of cell membranes Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes , 1798, (4), 777-787

For many years, it was believed that the laws of diffraction set a fundamental limit to the spatial resolution of conventional light microscopy. Major developments, especially in the past few years, have demonstrated that the diffraction barrier can be overcome both in the near- and far-field regime. Together with dynamic measurements, a wealth of new information is now emerging regarding the compartmentalization of cell membranes. In this review we focus on optical methods designed to explore the nanoscale architecture of the cell membrane, with a focal point on near-field optical microscopy (NSOM) as the first developed technique to provide truly optical super-resolution beyond the diffraction limit of light. Several examples illustrate the unique capabilities offered by NSOM and highlight its usefulness on cell membrane studies, complementing the palette of biophysical techniques available nowadays.

JTD Keywords: Membrane nanodomain, Lipid raft, Single molecule detection, Near-field scanning optical microscopy, Super-resolution optical microscopy


Fumagalli, L., Ferrari, G., Sampietro, M., Gomila, G., (2009). Quantitative nanoscale dielectric microscopy of single-layer supported biomembranes Nano Letters 9, (4), 1604-1608

We present the experimental demonstration of low-frequency dielectric constant imaging of single-layer supported biomembranes at the nanoscale. The dielectric constant image has been quantitatively reconstructed by combining the thickness and local capacitance obtained using a scanning force microscope equipped with a sub-attofarad low-frequency capacitance detector. This work opens new possibilities for studying bioelectric phenomena and the dielectric properties of biological membranes at the nanoscale.

JTD Keywords: Atomic-force microscopy, Nnear-field microscopy, Purple membrane, Scanning capacitance, Biological-systems, Fluid, Spectroscopy, Resolution, Proteins, Dynamics


van Zanten, T. S., Cambi, A., Koopman, M., Joosten, B., Figdor, Carl G., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2009). Hotspots of GPI-anchored proteins and integrin nanoclusters function as nucleation sites for cell adhesion Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106, (44), 18557-18562

Recruitment of receptor proteins to lipid rafts has been proposed as an important mechanism to regulate their cellular function. In particular, rafts have been implicated in regulation of integrin-mediated cell adhesion, although the underlying mechanism remains elusive. We used single-molecule near-field optical microscopy (NSOM) with localization accuracy of approximately 3 nm, to capture the spatio-functional relationship between the integrin LFA-1 and raft components (GPI-APs) on immune cells. Dual color nanoscale imaging revealed the existence of a nanodomain GPI-AP subpopulation that further concentrated in regions smaller than 250 nm, suggesting a hierarchical prearrangement of GPI-APs on resting monocytes. We previously demonstrated that in quiescent monocytes, LFA-1 preorganizes in nanoclusters. We now show that integrin nanoclusters are spatially different but reside proximal to GPI-AP nanodomains, forming hotspots on the cell surface. Ligand-mediated integrin activation resulted in an interconversion from monomers to nanodomains of GPI-APs and the generation of nascent adhesion sites where integrin and GPI-APs colocalized at the nanoscale. Cholesterol depletion significantly affected the reciprocal distribution pattern of LFA-1 and GPI-APs in the resting state, and LFA-1 adhesion to its ligand. As such, our data demonstrate the existence of nanoplatforms as essential intermediates in nascent cell adhesion. Since raft association with a variety of membrane proteins other than LFA-1 has been documented, we propose that hotspots regions enriched with raft components and functional receptors may constitute a prototype of nanoscale inter-receptor assembly and correspond to a generic mechanism to offer cells with privileged areas for rapid cellular function and responses to the outside world.

JTD Keywords: Integrin LFA-1, Membrane nanocompartments, Near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM), Single molecule detection


Nussio, M. R., Oncins, G., Ridelis, I., Szili, E., Shapter, J. G., Sanz, F., Voelcker, N. H., (2009). Nanomechanical characterization of phospholipid bilayer islands on flat and porous substrates: A force spectroscopy study Journal of Physical Chemistry B , 113, (30), 10339-10347

In this study, we compare for the first time the nanomechanical properties of lipid bilayer islands on flat and porous surfaces. 1,2-Dimyzistoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (DMPC) and 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (DPPC) bilayers were deposited on flat (silicon and mica) and porous silicon (pSi) substrate surfaces and examined using atomic force spectroscopy and force volume imaging. Force spectroscopy measurements revealed the effects of the underlying substrate and of the lipid phase on the nanomechanical properties of bilayers islands. For mica and silicon, significant differences in breakthrough force between the center and the edges of bilayer islands were observed for both phospolipids. These differences were more pronounced for DMPC than for DPPC, presumably due to melting effects at the edges of DMPC bilayers. In contrast, bilayer islands deposited on pSi yielded similar breakthrough forces in the central region and along the perimeter of the islands, and those values in turn were similar to those measured along the perimeter of bilayer islands deposited on the flat substrates. The study also demonstrates that pSi is suitable solid support for the formation of pore-spanning phospholipid bilayers with potential applications in transmembrane protein studies, drug delivery, and biosensing.

JTD Keywords: Black lipid-membranes, Gold surfaces, Supported bilayers, Channel activity, Micro-BLMS, Silicon, Proteins, Vesicles, AFM, Temperature measurement


Gramse, G., Casuso, I., Toset, J., Fumagalli, L., Gomila, G., (2009). Quantitative dielectric constant measurement of thin films by DC electrostatic force microscopy Nanotechnology 20, (39), 395702

A simple method to measure the static dielectric constant of thin films with nanometric spatial resolution is presented. The dielectric constant is extracted from DC electrostatic force measurements with the use of an accurate analytical model. The method is validated here on thin silicon dioxide films (8 nm thick, dielectric constant approximately 4) and purple membrane monolayers (6 nm thick, dielectric constant approximately 2), providing results in excellent agreement with those recently obtained by nanoscale capacitance microscopy using a current-sensing approach. The main advantage of the force detection approach resides in its simplicity and direct application on any commercial atomic force microscope with no need of additional sophisticated electronics, thus being easily available to researchers in materials science, biophysics and semiconductor technology.

JTD Keywords: Roscopy, Membrane, Tip, Polarizability, Polarization, Resolution, Nanotubes, Charge


Sunyer, R., Trepat, X., Fredberg, J. J., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2009). The temperature dependence of cell mechanics measured by atomic force microscopy Physical Biology 6, (2), 25009

The cytoskeleton is a complex polymer network that regulates the structural stability of living cells. Although the cytoskeleton plays a key role in many important cell functions, the mechanisms that regulate its mechanical behaviour are poorly understood. Potential mechanisms include the entropic elasticity of cytoskeletal filaments, glassy-like inelastic rearrangements of cross-linking proteins and the activity of contractile molecular motors that sets the tensional stress (prestress) borne by the cytoskeleton filaments. The contribution of these mechanisms can be assessed by studying how cell mechanics depends on temperature. The aim of this work was to elucidate the effect of temperature on cell mechanics using atomic force microscopy. We measured the complex shear modulus (G*) of human alveolar epithelial cells over a wide frequency range (0.1-25.6 Hz) at different temperatures (13-37 degrees C). In addition, we probed cell prestress by mapping the contractile forces that cells exert on the substrate by means of traction microscopy. To assess the role of actomyosin contraction in the temperature-induced changes in G* and cell prestress, we inhibited the Rho kinase pathway of the myosin light chain phosphorylation with Y-27632. Our results show that with increasing temperature, cells become stiffer and more solid-like. Cell prestress also increases with temperature. Inhibiting actomyosin contraction attenuated the temperature dependence of G* and prestress. We conclude that the dependence of cell mechanics with temperature is dominated by the contractile activity of molecular motors.

JTD Keywords: Membrane Stress Failure, Frog Skeletal-Muscle, Extracellular-Matrix, Glass-Transition, Energy Landscape, Actin-Filaments, Living Cell, Single, Traction, Cytoskeleton


Kostadinova, A., Seifert, B., Albrecht, W., Malsch, G., Groth, T., Lendlein, A., Altankov, G., (2009). Novel polymer blends for the preparation of membranes for biohybrid liver systems Journal of Biomaterials Science, Polymer Edition , 20, (5-6), 821-839

It was found previously that membranes based on co-polymers of acrylonitrile (AN) and 2-acrylamido-2-methyl-propansulfonic acid (AMPS) greatly stimulated the functionality and survival of primary hepatocytes. In those studies, however, the pure AN-AMPS co-polymer had poor membrane-forming properties, resulting in quite dense rubber-like membranes. Hence, membranes with required permeability and optimal biocompatibility were obtained by blending the AN-AMPS co-polymer with poly(acrylonitrile) homopolymer (PAN). The amount of PAN (P) and AN-AMPS (A) in the blend was varied from pure PAN (P/A-100/0) over P/A-75/25 and P/A-50/50 to pure AN-AMPS co-polymer (P/A-0/100). A gradual decrease of molecular cut-off of membranes with increase of AMPS concentration was found, which allows tailoring membrane permeability as necessary. C3A hepatoblastoma cells were applied as a widely accepted cellular model for assessment of hepatocyte behaviour by attachment, viability, growth and metabolic activity. It was found that the blend P/A-50/50, which possessed an optimal permeability for biohybrid liver systems, supported also the attachment, growth and function of C3A cells in terms of fibronectin synthesis and P-450 isoenzyme activity. Hence, blend membranes based on a one to one mixture of PAN and AN-AMPS combine sufficient permeability with the desired cellular compatibility for application in bioreactors for liver replacement.

JTD Keywords: Bioartificial liver, C3A cells, Fibronectin, P-450, Synthetic membrane


Zazoua, A., Kherrat, R., Caballero, D., Errachid, A., Jaffrezic-Renault, N., Bessueille, F., Leonard, D., (2009). Characterisation of a Cr(VI) sensitive polysiloxane membrane by x-ray photoelectron spectrometry and atomic force microscopy Sensor Letters 6th Maghreb-Europe Meeting on Materials and Their Applications for Devices and Physical, Chemical and Biological Sensors , AMER SCIENTIFIC PUBLISHERS (Rabat, Morocco) 7, (5), 995-1000

Cr(VI) sensitive polysiloxane membranes containing tributylphosphate (TBP) or trioctylphosphine oxide (TOPO) were characterized in this study. TBP and TOPO as carriers, have a high selectivity for Cr(VI). The Potentiometric response of EMIS (Electrolyte/Membrane/Insulator/Semiconductor) sensors presents a quasi-nernstian response for Cr2O2-7 exchange. The ion exchange is shown by X-ray photoelectron spectrometry (XPS), the binding energy of the Cr 2p1/2 peak corresponding to Cr(VI) and the atomic composition after exposure to Cr(VI) shows a factor 1.7 higher for silopreneTBP membrane. The conformational topography of both polymeric membranes was characterized by Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), the exchange of Cr(VI) leading to a heterogeneous topographic state. Adhesion force measurements are also performed to study the properties of adhesion of both selective membranes with a non-functionalized Si AFM tip and with an OTS functionalized one to study the interactions between the tip and the membrane, in liquid before and after the exposure of the membrane to ion chromium. The presence of the ionophores does not practically change the adhesion force compared to pure polysiloxane, showing a good solubility of the ionophore and the orientation of the alkyl chains towards the polysiloxane surface. After the exchange with Cr(VI), the adhesion force decreases drastically due to the hydrophilic character of the surface, complex of Cr(VI) with the P-O groups of both ionophore being oriented towards the surface.

JTD Keywords: AFM, Electrolyte/membrane/insulator/semiconductor structures, Polysiloxane membrane, Xps


Zazoua, A., Morakchi, K., Kherrat, R., Samar, M. H., Errachid, A., Jaffrezic-Renault, N., Boubellout, R., (2008). Electrochemical characterization of an EIS sensor functionalized with a TOPO doped polymeric layer for Cr(VI) detection IRBM , 29, (2-3), 187-191

A hexavalent chromium-selective sensor, based on polymeric membranes containing trioctylphosphine oxide (TOPO) deposited on a Si/Sio(2)/Si3N4 structure, has been developed. The ion-sensitivity of TOPO was investigated by capacitance measurements (C-V) and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. A quasi-nernstian response for Cr2O72- exchange is shown. Selectivity coefficients and detection limits of Cr(VI) in the presence of interfering anions were determined experimentally using the fixed interference method. A detection limit of 10(-5) M of Cr(VI) is obtained even in presence of sulphate and chloride ions.

JTD Keywords: Hexavalent chromium, Trioctylphosphine oxide, EIS, Siloprene membrane, Capacitance-voltage


de Bakker, Barbel I., Bodnar, Andrea, van Dijk, Erik M. H. P., Vamosi, Gyorgy, Damjanovich, Sandor, Waldmann, Thomas A., van Hulst, Niek F., Jenei, Attila, Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2008). Nanometer-scale organization of the alpha subunits of the receptors for IL2 and IL15 in human T lymphoma cells Journal of Cell Science 121, (5), 627-633

Interleukin 2 and interleukin 15 (IL2 and IL15, respectively) provide quite distinct contributions to T-cell-mediated immunity, despite having similar receptor composition and signaling machinery. As most of the proposed mechanisms underlying this apparent paradox attribute key significance to the individual {alpha}-chains of IL2 and IL15 receptors, we investigated the spatial organization of the receptors IL2R{alpha} and IL15R{alpha} at the nanometer scale expressed on a human CD4+ leukemia T cell line using single-molecule-sensitive near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM). In agreement with previous findings, we here confirm clustering of IL2R{alpha} and IL15R{alpha} at the submicron scale. In addition to clustering, our single-molecule data reveal that a non-negligible percentage of the receptors are organized as monomers. Only a minor fraction of IL2R{alpha} molecules reside outside the clustered domains, whereas [~]30% of IL15R{alpha} molecules organize as monomers or small clusters, excluded from the main domain regions. Interestingly, we also found that the packing densities per unit area of both IL2R{alpha} and IL15R{alpha} domains remained constant, suggesting a `building block' type of assembly involving repeated structures and composition. Finally, dual-color NSOM demonstrated co-clustering of the two {alpha}-chains. Our results should aid understanding the action of the IL2R-IL15R system in T cell function and also might contribute to the more rationale design of IL2R- or IL15R-targeted immunotherapy agents for treating human leukemia.

JTD Keywords: Near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM), Interleukin receptors IL2R, IL15R, Single-molecule detection, Nanometer-scale membrane organization


Guaus, E., Errachid, A., Torrent-Burgues, J., (2008). Voltammetric response of a glassy carbon electrode modified by a Langmuir-Blodgett film of a thiomacrocyclic compound Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry , 614, (1-2), 73-82

A Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) film of a thiomacrocyclic (ThM) compound was deposited on the surface of a glassy carbon electrode (GCE) sheet, from a subphase containing Cu(II) ions. The study of the voltammetric response of this modified GCE when the ThM was bonded to Cu2+, showed that the films had the behaviour of confined species of an electrode surface, and that the current density of the voltammograms increased with the number of LB layers deposited. On the other hand, a LB film of the ThM compound was deposited on the surface of a GCE sheet from a subphase of pure water. When the voltammetric response of the GCE-ThM electrode was studied in a Cu2+-SO42- solution, it was found that a membrane model applies to describe the effect of the LB film on the GCE surface.

JTD Keywords: Modified electrodes, Langmuir-Blodgett films, Cyclic voltammetry, Permeation at LB films, Membrane model of a thin film


Cho, S., Castellarnau, M., Samitier, J., Thielecke, H., (2008). Dependence of impedance of embedded single cells on cellular behaviour Sensors 8, (2), 1198-1211

Non-invasive single cell analyses are increasingly required for the medical diagnostics of test substances or the development of drugs and therapies on the single cell level. For the non-invasive characterisation of cells, impedance spectroscopy which provides the frequency dependent electrical properties has been used. Recently, microfludic systems have been investigated to manipulate the single cells and to characterise the electrical properties of embedded cells. In this article, the impedance of partially embedded single cells dependent on the cellular behaviour was investigated by using the microcapillary. An analytical equation was derived to relate the impedance of embedded cells with respect to the morphological and physiological change of extracellular interface. The capillary system with impedance measurement showed a feasibility to monitor the impedance change of embedded single cells caused by morphological and physiological change of cell during the addition of DMSO. By fitting the derived equation to the measured impedance of cell embedded at different negative pressure levels, it was able to extrapolate the equivalent gap and gap conductivity between the cell and capillary wall representing the cellular behaviour.

JTD Keywords: Frequency-domain, Spectroscopy, Erythrocytes, Biosensor, Membrane, System


Zazoua, A., Kherrat, R., Samar, M. H., Errachid, A., Jaffrezic-Renault, N., Bessueille, F., Leonard, D., (2008). Characterization of TBP containing polysiloxane membrane/insulator/semiconductor structures for hexavalent chromium detection Materials Science and Engineering: C-Biomimetic and Supramolecular Systems 5th Maghreb/Europe Meeting on Materials and Their Applications for Devices and Physical, Chemical and Biological Sensors (MADICA 2006) (ed. -----), Elsevier Science BV (Mahdia, Tunisia) 28, (5-6), 1014-1019

A hexavalent chromium-sensitive EMIS sensor (electrolyte membrane insulator semiconductor sensor) is prepared by deposition of a tributylphosphate (TBP) ionophore-containing siloprene membrane on a Si/SiO2/Si3N4 structure. The developed EMIS sensor was studied by means of impedance spectroscopy, capacitance-voltage, X-ray photoelectron spectrometry and FT-IR spectroscopy. From the flat-band shift of the EMIS structure, the nersntian response to the anionic species Cr2O7- was demonstrated. The linear range of detection is 10(-4) M to 10(-1) M and the detection limit is 10(-5) M. Sulfate and chloride anions are shown not to be interfering whereas carbonate ions present a pK(pot) equal to 0.19.

JTD Keywords: Hexavalent chromium, EMIS sensor, Tributylphosphate, Siloprene membrane


De Bakker, B. I., De Lange, F., Cambi, A., Korterik, J. P., Van Dijk, E. M. H. P., Van Hulst, N. F., Figdor, C. G., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2007). Nanoscale organization of the pathogen receptor DC-SIGN mapped by single-molecule high-resolution fluorescence microscopy ChemPhysChem , 8, (10), 1473-1480

DC-SIGN, a C-type lectin exclusively expressed on dendritic cells (DCs), plays an important role in pathogen recognition by binding with high affinity to a large variety of microorganisms. Recent experimental evidence points to a direct relation between the function of DC-SIGN as a viral receptor and its spatial arrangement on the plasma membrane. We have investigated the nanoscale organization of fluorescently labeled DC-SIGN on intact isolated DCs by means of near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM) combined with single-molecule detection. Fluorescence spots of different intensity and size have been directly visualized by optical means with a spatial resolution of less than 100 nm. Intensity- and size-distribution histograms of the DC-SIGN fluorescent spots confirm that approximately 80% of the receptors are organized in nanosized domains randomly distributed on the cell membrane. Intensity-size correlation analysis revealed remarkable heterogeneity in the molecular packing density of the domains. Furthermore, we have mapped the intermolecular organization within a dense cluster by means of sequential NSOM imaging combined with discrete single-molecule photobleaching. In this way we have determined the spatial coordinates of 13 different individual dyes, with a localization accuracy of 6 nm. Our experimental observations are all consistent with an arrangement of DC-SIGN designed to maximize its chances of binding to a wide range of microorganisms. Our data also illustrate the potential of NSOM as an ultrasensitive, high-resolution technique to probe nanometer-scale organization of molecules on the cell membrane.

JTD Keywords: High-resolution optical microscopy, Lectins, Membranes, Receptors, Single-molecule studies