Reconstitution of Membrane-tethered Minimal Actin Cortices on Supported Lipid Bilayers

J Vis Exp. 2022 Jul 12;(185). doi: 10.3791/63968.


The surface of a living cell provides a versatile active platform for numerous cellular processes, which arise from the interplay of the plasma membrane with the underlying actin cortex. In the past decades, reconstituted, minimal systems based on supported lipid bilayers in combination with actin filament networks have proven to be very instrumental in unraveling basic mechanisms and consequences of membrane-tethered actin networks, as well as in studying the functions of individual membrane-associated proteins. Here, we describe how to reconstitute such active composite systems in vitro that consist of fluid supported lipid bilayers coupled via membrane-associated actin-binding proteins to dynamic actin filaments and myosin motors that can be readily observed via total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy. An open-chamber design allows one to assemble the system in a step-by-step manner and to systematically control many parameters such as linker protein concentration, actin concentration, actin filament length, actin/myosin ratio, as well as ATP levels. Finally, we discuss how to control the quality of the system, how to detect and troubleshoot commonly occurring problems, and some limitations of this system in comparison with the living cell surface.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Actins* / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Lipid Bilayers* / metabolism
  • Myosins / metabolism


  • Actins
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Myosins