Human Immunodeficiency Virus type-1 (HIV-1) acquires its lipid membrane from the plasma membrane of the infected cell from which it buds out. Previous studies have shown that the HIV-1 envelope is an environment of very low mobility, with the diffusion of incorporated proteins two orders of magnitude slower than in the plasma membrane. One of the reasons for this difference is thought to be the HIV-1 membrane composition that is characterised by a high degree of rigidity and lipid packing, which has, until now, been difficult to assess experimentally. To further refine the model of the molecular mobility on the HIV-1 surface, we herein investigated the relative importance of membrane composition and curvature in simplified model membrane systems, large unilamellar vesicles (LUVs) of different lipid compositions and sizes (0.1⁻1 µm), using super-resolution stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy-based fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (STED-FCS). Establishing an approach that is also applicable to measurements of molecule dynamics in virus-sized particles, we found, at least for the 0.1⁻1 µm sized vesicles, that the lipid composition and thus membrane rigidity, but not the curvature, play an important role in the decreased molecular mobility on the vesicles' surface. This observation suggests that the composition of the envelope rather than the particle geometry contributes to the previously described low mobility of proteins on the HIV-1 surface. Our vesicle-based study thus provides further insight into the dynamic properties of the surface of individual HIV-1 particles, as well as paves the methodological way towards better characterisation of the properties and function of viral lipid envelopes in general.
Keywords: FCS; HIV-1; STED-FCS; lipid envelope; lipids; super-resolution.