Phase Behavior of Charged Vesicles Under Symmetric and Asymmetric Solution Conditions Monitored with Fluorescence Microscopy

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Phase-separated giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) exhibiting coexisting liquid-ordered and liquid-disordered domains are a common biophysical tool to investigate the lipid raft hypothesis. Numerous studies, however, neglect the impact of physiological solution conditions. On that account, the current work presents the effect of high-salinity buffer and trans-membrane solution asymmetry on liquid-liquid phase separation in charged GUVs grown from dioleylphosphatidylglycerol, egg sphingomyelin, and cholesterol. The effects were studied under isothermal and varying temperature conditions.

We describe equipment and experimental strategies applicable for monitoring the stability of coexisting liquid domains in charged vesicles under symmetric and asymmetric high-salinity solution conditions. This includes an approach to prepare charged multicomponent GUVs in high-salinity buffer at high temperatures. The protocol entails the option to perform a partial exchange of the external solution by a simple dilution step while minimizing the vesicle dilution. An alternative approach is presented utilizing a microfluidic device that allows for a complete external solution exchange. The solution effects on phase separation were also studied under varying temperatures. To this end, we present the basic design and utility of an in-house built temperature control chamber. Furthermore, we reflect on the assessment of the GUV phase state, pitfalls associated with it and how to circumvent them.