Some new faces of membrane microdomains: A complex confocal fluorescence, differential polarization, and FCS imaging study on live immune cells



Lipid rafts are cholesterol- and glycosphingolipid-rich plasma membrane microdomains, which control signal transduction, cellular contacts, pathogen recognition, and internalization processes. Their stability/lifetime, heterogeneity remained still controversial, mostly due to the high diversity of raft markers and cellular models. The correspondence of the rafts of living cells to liquid ordered (Lo) domains of model membranes and the effect of modulating rafts on the structural dynamics of their bulk membrane environment are also yet unresolved questions. Spatial overlap of various lipid and protein raft markers on live cells was studied by confocal laser scanning microscopy, while fluorescence polarization of DiIC18(3) and Bodipy-phosphatidylcholine was imaged with differential polarization CLSM (DP-CLSM). Mobility of the diI probe under different conditions was assessed by fluorescence correlation spectroscopic (FCS). GM1 gangliosides highly colocalized with GPI-linked protein markers of rafts and a new anti-cholesterol antibody (AC8) in various immune cells. On the same cells, albeit not fully excluded from rafts, diI colocalized much less with raft markers of both lipid and protein nature, suggesting the Lo membrane regions are not equivalents to lipid rafts. The DP-CLSM technique was capable of imaging probe orientation and heterogeneity of polarization in the plasma membrane of live cells, reflecting differences in lipid order/packing. This property—in accordance with diI mobility assessed by FCS—was sensitive to modulation of rafts either through their lipids or proteins. Our complex imaging analysis demonstrated that two lipid probes—GM1 and a new anti-cholesterol antibody—equivocally label the membrane rafts on a variety of cell types, while some raft-associated proteins (MHC-II, CD48, CD59, or CD90) do not colocalize with each other. This indicates the compositional heterogeneity of rafts. Usefulness of the DP-CLSM technique in imaging immune cell surface, in terms of lipid order/packing heterogeneities, was also shown together with its sensitivity to monitor biological modulation of lipid rafts. © 2007 International Society for Analytical Cytology