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Biophys J. Feb 2000; 78(2): 901–907.
PMCID: PMC1300692

Translational diffusion of globular proteins in the cytoplasm of cultured muscle cells.


Modulated fringe pattern photobleaching (MFPP) was used to measure the translational diffusion of microinjected fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-labeled proteins of different sizes in the cytoplasm of cultured muscle cells. This technique, which is an extension of the classical fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) technique, allows the measurement of the translational diffusion of macromolecules over several microns. Proteins used had molecular masses between 21 and 540 kDa. The results clearly indicated that the diffusivity of the various proteins is a decreasing function of their hydrodynamic radius. This decrease is more rapid with globular proteins than with FITC-labeled dextrans (, Biophys. J. 70:2327-2332), most likely because, unlike globular proteins, dextrans are randomly coiled macromolecules with a flexible structure. These data do not exclude the possibility of a rapid diffusion over a short distance, unobservable with our experimental set-up, which would take place within the first milliseconds after bleaching and would correspond to the diffusion in restricted domains followed by impeded diffusion provoked by the network of microtubules, microfilaments, and intermediate filaments. Thus our results may complement rather than contradict those of Verkman and collaborators (, J. Cell Biol. 138:1-12). The biological consequence of the size-dependent restriction of the mobility of proteins in the cell cytoplasm is that the formation of intracellular complexes with other proteins considerably reduces their mobility.

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