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J Vis Exp. 2016 Aug 24;(114). doi: 10.3791/54349.

SNARE-mediated Fusion of Single Proteoliposomes with Tethered Supported Bilayers in a Microfluidic Flow Cell Monitored by Polarized TIRF Microscopy.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine; Nanobiology Institute, Yale University.
Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine; Nanobiology Institute, Yale University; Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University; Laboratoire de Neurophotonique, Université Paris Descartes, Faculté des Sciences Fondamentales et Biomédicales, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS);


In the ubiquitous process of membrane fusion the opening of a fusion pore establishes the first connection between two formerly separate compartments. During neurotransmitter or hormone release via exocytosis, the fusion pore can transiently open and close repeatedly, regulating cargo release kinetics. Pore dynamics also determine the mode of vesicle recycling; irreversible resealing results in transient, "kiss-and-run" fusion, whereas dilation leads to full fusion. To better understand what factors govern pore dynamics, we developed an assay to monitor membrane fusion using polarized total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy with single molecule sensitivity and ~15 msec time resolution in a biochemically well-defined in vitro system. Fusion of fluorescently labeled small unilamellar vesicles containing v-SNARE proteins (v-SUVs) with a planar bilayer bearing t-SNAREs, supported on a soft polymer cushion (t-SBL, t-supported bilayer), is monitored. The assay uses microfluidic flow channels that ensure minimal sample consumption while supplying a constant density of SUVs. Exploiting the rapid signal enhancement upon transfer of lipid labels from the SUV to the SBL during fusion, kinetics of lipid dye transfer is monitored. The sensitivity of TIRF microscopy allows tracking single fluorescent lipid labels, from which lipid diffusivity and SUV size can be deduced for every fusion event. Lipid dye release times can be much longer than expected for unimpeded passage through permanently open pores. Using a model that assumes retardation of lipid release is due to pore flickering, a pore "openness", the fraction of time the pore remains open during fusion, can be estimated. A soluble marker can be encapsulated in the SUVs for simultaneous monitoring of lipid and soluble cargo release. Such measurements indicate some pores may reseal after losing a fraction of the soluble cargo.

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