Single-Molecule Fluorescence Studies of Membrane Transporters Using Total Internal Reflection Microscopy
Cells are delineated by a lipid bilayer that physically separates the inside from the outer environment. Most polar, charged, or large molecules require proteins to reduce the energetic barrier for passage across the membrane and to achieve transport rates that are relevant for life. Here, we describe techniques to visualize the functioning of membrane transport proteins with fluorescent probes at the single-molecule level. First, we explain how to produce membrane-reconstituted transporters with fluorescent labels. Next, we detail the construction of a microfluidic flow cell to image immobilized proteoliposomes on a total internal reflection fluorescence microscope. We conclude by describing the methods that are needed to analyze fluorescence movies and obtain useful single-molecule data.