Use of the supported membrane tube assay system for real-time analysis of membrane fission reactions

Nat Protoc. 2017 Feb;12(2):390-400. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2016.173. Epub 2017 Jan 26.


The process of membrane fission is fundamental to diverse cellular processes such as nutrient uptake, synaptic transmission and organelle biogenesis, and it involves the localized application of curvature stress to a tubular membrane intermediate, forcing it to undergo scission. Alternative techniques for creating such substrates necessitate the use of micromanipulators or sophisticated optical traps and require a high level of technical expertise. We present a facile method to generate an array of membrane tubes supported on a passivated glass coverslip, which we refer to as supported membrane tubes (SMrTs). SMrT templates are formed upon hydration of a dry lipid mix in physiological buffer and subsequent flow-induced extrusion of the lipid reservoir into long membrane tubes with variable dimensions. Following surface passivation of coverslips, these templates can be formed from a variety of lipids, with as little as 1-2 nmol of lipid in a matter of 2 h, and can be used in membrane-curvature-sensitive fission assays.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Buffers
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Glass / chemistry
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Membranes, Artificial*
  • Time Factors


  • Buffers
  • Membranes, Artificial