We present an experimental system that allows visualization of conformational changes in membrane proteins at the single-molecule level. The target membrane protein is reconstituted in a giant liposome for independent control of the aqueous environments on the two sides of the membrane. For direct observation of conformational changes, an extra-liposomal site(s) of the target protein is bound to a glass surface, and a probe that is easily visible under a microscope, such as a micron-sized plastic bead, is attached to another site on the intra-liposomal side. A conformational change, or an angular motion in the tiny protein molecule, would manifest as a visible motion of the probe. The attachment of the protein on the glass surface also immobilizes the liposome, greatly facilitating its manipulation such as the probe injection. As a model system, we reconstituted ATP synthase (FOF1) in liposomes tens of μm in size, attached the protein specifically to a glass surface, and demonstrated its ATP-driven rotation in the membrane through the motion of a submicron bead.
ASJC Scopus subject areas