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Anal Biochem. 2000 Oct 15;285(2):235-45.

How to measure and analyze tryptophan fluorescence in membranes properly, and why bother?

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California, Irvine, California 92697-4560, USA.


Tryptophan fluorescence is a powerful tool for studying protein structure and function, especially membrane-active proteins and peptides. It is arguably the most frequently used tool for examining the interactions of proteins and peptides with vesicular unilamellar model membranes. However, high light scattering associated with vesicular membrane systems presents special challenges. Because of their reduced light scattering compared to large unilamellar vesicles (LUV), small unilamellar vesicles (SUV) produced by sonication are widely used membrane models. Unfortunately, SUV, unlike LUV, are metastable and consequently unsuitable for equilibrium thermodynamic measurements. We present simple and easily implemented experimental procedures for the accurate determination of tryptophan (Trp) fluorescence in either LUV or SUV. Specifically, we show that Trp spectra can be obtained in the presence of up to 6 mM LUV that are virtually identical to spectra obtained in buffer alone, which obviates the use of SUV. We show how the widths and peak positions of such spectra can be used to evaluate the heterogeneity of the membrane conformation and penetration of peptides. Finally, we show how to use a reference fluorophore for the correction of intensity measurements so that the energetics of peptide partitioning into membranes can be accurately determined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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