Detection of lipid domains in model and cell membranes by fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Jul;1798(7):1444-56. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2009.12.015. Epub 2010 Jan 6.


The discovery that the lipids constituting the plasma membrane are not randomly distributed, but instead are able to form laterally segregated lipid domains with different properties has given hints how the formation of such lipid domains influences and regulates many processes occurring at the plasma membrane. While in model systems these lipid domains can be easily accessed and their properties studied, it is still challenging to determine the properties of cholesterol rich lipid domains, the so called "Rafts", in the plasma membrane of living cells due to their small size and transient nature. One promising technique to address such issues is fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) microscopy, as spatially resolved images make the visualization of the lateral lipid distribution possible, while at the same time the fluorescence lifetime of a membrane probe yields information about the bilayer structure and organization of the lipids in lipid domains and various properties like preferential protein-protein interactions or the enrichment of membrane probes. This review aims to give an overview of the techniques underlying FLIM probes which can be applied to investigate the formation of lipid domains and their respective properties in model membrane and biological systems. Also a short technical introduction into the techniques of a FLIM microscope is given.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism*
  • Membrane Microdomains / chemistry
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Models, Biological*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Lipid Bilayers