Füllbrunn N, Li Z, Jorde L, Richter CP, Kurre R, Langemeyer L, Yu C, Meyer C, Enderlein J, Ungermann C, Piehler J, You C
Elife. 2021 Jan 29;10:e62501.
Insights into the conformational organization and dynamics of proteins complexes at membranes is essential for our mechanistic understanding of numerous key biological processes. Here, we introduce graphene-induced energy transfer (GIET) to probe axial orientation of arrested macromolecules at lipid monolayers. Based on a calibrated distance-dependent efficiency within a dynamic range of 25 nm, we analyzed the conformational organization of proteins and complexes involved in tethering and fusion at the lysosome-like yeast vacuole. We observed that the membrane-anchored Rab7-like GTPase Ypt7 shows conformational reorganization upon interactions with effector proteins. Ensemble and time-resolved single-molecule GIET experiments revealed that the HOPS tethering complex, when recruited via Ypt7 to membranes, is dynamically alternating between a ‘closed’ and an ‘open’ conformation, with the latter possibly interacting with incoming vesicles. Our work highlights GIET as a unique spectroscopic ruler to reveal the axial orientation and dynamics of macromolecular complexes at biological membranes with sub-nanometer resolution.