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J Vis Exp. 2012 Feb 29;(60). pii: 3747. doi: 10.3791/3747.

Lateral diffusion and exocytosis of membrane proteins in cultured neurons assessed using fluorescence recovery and fluorescence-loss photobleaching.

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  • 1MRC Centre for Synaptic Plasticity, University of Bristol, UK.

Abstract

Membrane proteins such as receptors and ion channels undergo active trafficking in neurons, which are highly polarised and morphologically complex. This directed trafficking is of fundamental importance to deliver, maintain or remove synaptic proteins. Super-ecliptic pHluorin (SEP) is a pH-sensitive derivative of eGFP that has been extensively used for live cell imaging of plasma membrane proteins(1-2). At low pH, protonation of SEP decreases photon absorption and eliminates fluorescence emission. As most intracellular trafficking events occur in compartments with low pH, where SEP fluorescence is eclipsed, the fluorescence signal from SEP-tagged proteins is predominantly from the plasma membrane where the SEP is exposed to a neutral pH extracellular environment. When illuminated at high intensity SEP, like every fluorescent dye, is irreversibly photodamaged (photobleached)(3-5). Importantly, because low pH quenches photon absorption, only surface expressed SEP can be photobleached whereas intracellular SEP is unaffected by the high intensity illumination(6-10). FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching) of SEP-tagged proteins is a convenient and powerful technique for assessing protein dynamics at the plasma membrane. When fluorescently tagged proteins are photobleached in a region of interest (ROI) the recovery in fluorescence occurs due to the movement of unbleached SEP-tagged proteins into the bleached region. This can occur via lateral diffusion and/or from exocytosis of non-photobleached receptors supplied either by de novo synthesis or recycling (see Fig. 1). The fraction of immobile and mobile protein can be determined and the mobility and kinetics of the diffusible fraction can be interrogated under basal and stimulated conditions such as agonist application or neuronal activation stimuli such as NMDA or KCl application(8,10). We describe photobleaching techniques designed to selectively visualize the recovery of fluorescence attributable to exocytosis. Briefly, an ROI is photobleached once as with standard FRAP protocols, followed, after a brief recovery, by repetitive bleaching of the flanking regions. This 'FRAP-FLIP' protocol, developed in our lab, has been used to characterize AMPA receptor trafficking at dendritic spines(10), and is applicable to a wide range of trafficking studies to evaluate the intracellular trafficking and exocytosis.

PMID:
22395448
PMCID:
PMC3315441
DOI:
10.3791/3747
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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