Membrane dynamics has a large impact on cellular uptake and release of various metabolites or pharmaceutical agents. For a deeper understanding of the cellular processes involved, we used U373-MG human glioblastoma cells as a model system. As conventional microscopy does not permit to investigate individual layers in living cells, we used structured illumination techniques and total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM) to analyse the plasma membrane and intracellular membranes of living cells selectively. Optical image sections provide a high resolution and the possibility of 3D reconstruction.
Membranes of living cells were characterized by the membrane marker 6-dodecanoyl-2-dimethylamino naphthalene (laurdan). Due to its spectral and kinetic properties this fluorescence marker appears appropriate for measuring membrane stiffness and fluidity. After excitation with linearly polarized laser pulses, membrane fluidity of human glioblastoma cells was determined by measurements of steady-state and time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy r(t), since with increasing viscosity of the environment, the rotation of an excited molecule is impeded. The corresponding time constant τr of molecular relaxation decreased with temperature and increased with the amount of cholesterol. In addition, fluorescence anisotropy r(t) values of the plasma membrane were larger than the values of intracellular membranes for all temperatures in the range of 16°C ≤ T ≤ 41°C.
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