Use of the fluorescent weak acid dansylglycine to measure transmembrane proton concentration gradients.

PMID 3755615


The amphiphilic fluorescent dye N-[(5-dimethylamino)naphth-1-ylsulfonyl]glycine (dansylglycine) can be used to monitor the magnitude and stability of transmembrane proton gradients. Although freely soluble in aqueous media, the dye readily adsorbs to the surfaces of lipid vesicles. Because membrane-bound dye fluoresces at a higher frequency, and with greater efficiency, than dye in aqueous solution, it is easy to isolate the fluorescence emission from those dye molecules adsorbed to the lipid surface. When dansylglycine is mixed with phospholipid vesicles, the dye molecules attain a partition equilibrium between buffer and the outer, proximal surface of the vesicles. This is a rapid, diffusion-limited process that is indicated by a fast phase of fluorescence intensity increase monitored at 510 nm. In a second step, the inner, distal surface of each vesicle becomes populated with dye, a process that involves permeation through the lipid bilayer and that is generally much slower than the original adsorption step. Dansylglycine is a weak acid that permeates as an electrically neutral species; the flux of dye across the bilayer is thus strongly dependent on the degree of protonation of the dye's carboxylate moiety. When the external pH is lower than that of the vesicle lumen, the inward flux of dye is greater than that in the opposite direction, and dye accumulates in the lumen. This leads to a local elevation of dansylglycine concentration in the inner membrane monolayer, which in turn results in an elevated fluorescence intensity proportional to the membrane pH gradient.

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Dansylglycine, fluorescent amino acid