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Fabricating Multi-Component Lipid Nanotube Networks using the Gliding Kinesin Motility Assay

Zachary I. Imam1, George D. Bachand1


Lipid nanotube (LNT) networks represent an in vitro model system for studying molecular transport and lipid biophysics with relevance to the ubiquitous lipid tubules found in eukaryotic cells. However, in vivo LNTs are highly non-equilibrium structures that require chemical energy and molecular motors to be assembled, maintained, and reorganized. Furthermore, the composition of in vivo LNTs is complex, comprising of multiple different lipid species. Typical methods to extrude LNTs are both time- and labor-intensive, and they require optical tweezers, microbeads, and micropipettes to forcibly pull nanotubes from giant lipid vesicles. Presented here is a protocol for the gliding motility assay (GMA), in which large scale LNT networks are rapidly generated from giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) using kinesin-powered microtubule motility. Using this method, LNT networks are formed from a wide array of lipid formulations that mimic the complexity of biological LNTs, making them increasingly useful for in vitro studies of lipid biophysics and membrane-associated transport. Additionally, this method is capable of reliably producing LNT networks in a short time (<30 min) using commonly used laboratory equipment. LNT network characteristics such as length, width, and lipid partitioning are also tunable by altering the lipid composition of the GUVs used for fabricating the networks.

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