Yudovich S, Marzouqe A, Kantorovitsch J, Teblum E, Chen T, Enderlein J, Miller EW, Weiss S
Biophys J. 2022 May 25:S0006-3495(22)00430-1
Supported lipid bilayers are a well-developed model system for the study of membranes and their associated proteins, such as membrane channels, enzymes, and receptors. These versatile model membranes can be made from various components, ranging from simple synthetic phospholipids to complex mixtures of constituents, mimicking the cell membrane with its relevant physiochemical and molecular phenomena. In addition, the high stability of supported lipid bilayers allows for their study via a wide array of experimental probes. In this work, we describe a platform for supported lipid bilayers that is accessible both electrically and optically, and demonstrate direct optical observation of the transmembrane potential of supported lipid bilayers. We show that the polarization of the supported membrane can be electrically controlled and optically probed using voltage-sensitive dyes. Membrane polarization dynamics is understood through electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and the analysis of an equivalent electrical circuit model. In addition, we describe the effect of the conducting electrode layer on the fluorescence of the optical probe through metal-induced energy transfer, and show that while this energy transfer has an adverse effect on the voltage sensitivity of the fluorescent probe, its strong distance dependency allows for axial localization of fluorescent emitters with ultrahigh accuracy. We conclude with a discussion on possible applications of this platform for the study of voltage-dependent membrane proteins and other processes in membrane biology and surface science.