Biophysical journal

Receptor displacement in the cell membrane by hydrodynamic force amplification through nanoparticles.

PMID 23823230


We introduce an intrinsically multiplexed and easy to implement method to apply an external force to a biomolecule and thus probe its interaction with a second biomolecule or, more generally, its environment (for example, the cell membrane). We take advantage of the hydrodynamic interaction with a controlled fluid flow within a microfluidic channel to apply a force. By labeling the biomolecule with a nanoparticle that acts as a kite and increases the hydrodynamic interaction with the fluid, the drag induced by convection becomes important. We use this approach to track the motion of single membrane receptors, the Clostridium perfringens ε-toxin (CPεT) receptors that are confined in lipid raft platforms, and probe their interaction with the environment. Under external force, we observe displacements over distances up to 10 times the confining domain diameter due to elastic deformation of a barrier and return to the initial position after the flow is stopped. Receptors can also jump over such barriers. Analysis of the receptor motion characteristics before, during, and after a force is applied via the flow indicates that the receptors are displaced together with their confining raft platform. Experiments before and after incubation with latrunculin B reveal that the barriers are part of the actin cytoskeleton and have an average spring constant of 2.5 ± 0.6 pN/μm before vs. 0.6 ± 0.2 pN/μm after partial actin depolymerization. Our data, in combination with our previous work demonstrating that the ε-toxin receptor confinement is not influenced by the cytoskeleton, imply that it is the raft platform and its constituents rather than the receptor itself that encounters and deforms the barriers formed by the actin cytoskeleton.