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ACS Chem Biol. 2012 Jan 20;7(1):139-49. doi: 10.1021/cb200326g. Epub 2011 Nov 14.

Nanoscale membrane organization: where biochemistry meets advanced microscopy.

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Department of Tumor Immunology, Nijmegen Centre for Molecular Life Sciences, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, The Netherlands.


Understanding the molecular mechanisms that shape an effective cellular response is a fundamental question in biology. Biochemical measurements have revealed critical information about the order of protein-protein interactions along signaling cascades but lack the resolution to determine kinetics and localization of interactions on the plasma membrane. Furthermore, the local membrane environment influences membrane receptor distributions and dynamics, which in turn influences signal transduction. To measure dynamic protein interactions and elucidate the consequences of membrane architecture interplay, direct measurements at high spatiotemporal resolution are needed. In this review, we discuss the biochemical principles regulating membrane nanodomain formation and protein function, ranging from the lipid nanoenvironment to the cortical cytoskeleton. We also discuss recent advances in fluorescence microscopy that are making it possible to quantify protein organization and biochemical events at the nanoscale in the living cell membrane.

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