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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1995 Oct 4;1239(1):58-66.

A comparison of the fluorescence properties of TMA-DPH as a probe for plasma membrane and for endocytic membrane.

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Laboratoire de Biophysique, URA 491 du CNRS, Faculté de Pharmacie, Université Louis Pasteur de Strasbourg, Illkirch, France.


In earlier studies, the fluorescence probe 1-(4-(trimethylamino)phenyl)-6-phenylhexa-1,3,5-triene (TMA-DPH) was shown to interact with living cells by instantaneous incorporation into the plasma membrane, according to a water (probe not fluorescent)/membrane (probe highly fluorescent) partition equilibrium. This made it interesting both as a fluorescence anisotropy probe for plasma membrane fluidity determinations and as a quantitative tracer for endocytosis and intracellular membrane traffic. In order to ascertain the limiting concentrations for its use in these applications, we performed a systematic study of its fluorescence properties (intensity, lifetime, anisotropy) in the plasma membrane and in endocytic membranes of intact L929 mouse fibroblasts. Some of the experiments were repeated on mouse-bone-marrow-derived macrophages and on phospholipidic LUV to confirm the results. Rather unexpectedly, it was observed that: (i) the incorporation of TMA-DPH into the membranes, monitored by UV absorption measurements, remained proportional to the probe concentration over the wide range explored (5 x 10(-7) M-2.5 x 10(-5) M); (ii) however, concerning fluorescence, quenching effects occurred in the membranes above certain critical concentrations. These effects were shown to result from Förster-type resonance auto-transfer; (iii) strikingly, the critical concentrations were considerably higher in early-endocytic-vesicle membranes than in the bulk plasma membrane. It was established that membrane fluidity was involved and this was confirmed by the parallel study on phospholipidic vesicles. Potential applications of these properties as a novel approach for evaluating membrane fluidity are suggested.

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