Probing cell membrane dynamics using plasmon coupling microscopy
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The plasma membrane of mammalian cells is depicted as a two-dimensional hybrid material which is compartmentalized into submicron-sized domains. These membrane domains play a pivotal role in cellular signaling processes due to selective recruitment of specific cell surface receptors. The structural dynamics of the membrane domains and their exact biological functions are, however, still unclear, partially due to the wave nature of light, which limits the optical resolution in the visible light to approximately 400 nm in conventional optical microscopy. Here, we provide a non-fluorescence based approach for monitoring distance changes on subdiffraction limit length scales in a conventional far-field optical microscope. This approach, which is referred to as plasmon coupling microscopy (PCM), utilizes the distance dependent near-field coupling between noble metal nanoparticle (NP) labels to resolve close contacts on the length scale of approximately one NP diameter. We firstly utilize this PCM strategy to resolve interparticle separations during individual encounters of gold NP labeled fibronectin-integrin complexes in living Hela cells. We then further refine this ratiometric detection methodology by augmenting it with a polarization-sensitive detection, which enables simultaneous monitoring of the distance and conformation changes in NP dimers and clusters. We apply this polarization resolved PCM approach to characterize the structural lateral heterogeneity of cell membranes on submicron length scales. Finally, we demonstrate that PCM can provide quantitative information about the structural dynamics of individual epidermal growth factor receptor (ErbB1)-enriched membrane domains in living cells.
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