Temperature-independent porous nanocontainers for single-molecule fluorescence studies

Anal Chem. 2010 Dec 1;82(23):9694-701. doi: 10.1021/ac101714u. Epub 2010 Nov 1.


In this work, we demonstrate the capability of using lipid vesicles biofunctionalized with protein channels to perform single-molecule fluorescence measurements over a biologically relevant temperature range. Lipid vesicles can serve as an ideal nanocontainer for single-molecule fluorescence measurements of biomacromolecules. One serious limitation of the vesicle encapsulation method has been that the lipid membrane is practically impermeable to most ions and small molecules, limiting its application to observing reactions in equilibrium with the initial buffer condition. To permeabilize the barrier, Staphylococcus aureus toxin α-hemolysin (aHL) channels have been incorporated into the membrane. These aHL channels have been characterized using single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer signals from vesicle-encapsulated guanine-rich DNA that folds in a G-quadruplex motif as well as from the Rep helicase-DNA system. We show that these aHL channels are permeable to monovalent ions and small molecules, such as ATP, over the biologically relevant temperature range (17-37 °C). Ions can efficiently pass through preformed aHL channels to initiate DNA folding without any detectable delay. With addition of the cholesterol to the membrane, we also report a 35-fold improvement in the aHL channel formation efficiency, making this approach more practical for wider applications. Finally, the temperature-dependent single-molecule enzymatic study inside these nanocontainers is demonstrated by measuring the Rep helicase repetitive shuttling dynamics along a single-stranded DNA at various temperatures. The permeability of the biofriendly nanocontainer over a wide range of temperature would be effectively applied to other surface-based high-throughput measurements and sensors beyond the single-molecule fluorescence measurements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Toxins / chemistry*
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA Helicases / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer / methods*
  • G-Quadruplexes
  • Hemolysin Proteins / chemistry*
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Permeability
  • Porosity
  • Temperature


  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • rep protein, E coli
  • staphylococcal alpha-toxin
  • DNA
  • DNA Helicases