Characterization and application of a new optical probe for membrane lipid domains

Biophys J. 2006 Apr 1;90(7):2563-75. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.105.072884. Epub 2006 Jan 13.


In this article, we characterize the fluorescence of an environmentally sensitive probe for lipid membranes, di-4-ANEPPDHQ. In large unilamellar lipid vesicles (LUVs), its emission spectrum shifts up to 30 nm to the blue with increasing cholesterol concentration. Independently, it displays a comparable blue shift in liquid-ordered relative to liquid-disordered phases. The cumulative effect is a 60-nm difference in emission spectra for cholesterol containing LUVs in the liquid-ordered state versus cholesterol-free LUVs in the liquid-disordered phase. Given these optical properties, we use di-4-ANEPPDHQ to image the phase separation in giant unilamellar vesicles with both linear and nonlinear optical microscopy. The dye shows green and red fluorescence in liquid-ordered and -disordered domains, respectively. We propose that this reflects the relative rigidity of the molecular packing around the dye molecules in the two phases. We also observe a sevenfold stronger second harmonic generation signal in the liquid-disordered domains, consistent with a higher concentration of the dye resulting from preferential partitioning into the disordered phase. The efficacy of the dye for reporting lipid domains in cell membranes is demonstrated in polarized migrating neutrophils.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysics / methods*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacology*
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Membrane Microdomains / chemistry
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Membranes / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Models, Chemical
  • Models, Molecular
  • Neutrophils / cytology
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Temperature


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Lipids
  • Cholesterol