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Chem Phys Lipids. 2002 Jun;116(1-2):57-74.

Pyrene-labeled lipids as tools in membrane biophysics and cell biology.

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Institute of Biomedicine, Biomedicum, Room C205b, Haartmaninkatu 8, P.O. Box 63, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.


Pyrene is one of the most frequently used lipid-linked fluorophores. Its most characteristic features are a long excited state lifetime and (local) concentration-dependent formation of excimers. Pyrene is also hydrophobic and thus does not significantly distort the conformation of the labeled lipid molecule. These characteristics make pyrene lipids well-suited for studies on a variety of biophysical phenomena like lateral diffusion, inter- or transbilayer movement of lipids and lateral organization of membranes. Pyrene lipids have also been widely employed to determine protein binding to membranes, lipid conformation and the activity of lipolytic enzymes. In cell biology, pyrene lipids are promising tools for studies on lipid trafficking and metabolism, as well as for microscopic mapping of membrane properties. The main disadvantage of pyrene lipids is the relatively large size of the fluorophore. Another disadvantage is that they require UV-excitation, which is not feasible with all microscopes.

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