Membrane-on-a-Chip: Microstructured Silicon/Silicon-Dioxide Chips for High-Throughput Screening of Membrane Transport and Viral Membrane Fusion
Screening of transport processes across biological membranes is hindered by the challenge to establish fragile supported lipid bilayers and the difficulty to determine at which side of the membrane reactants reside. Here, we present a method for the generation of suspended lipid bilayers with physiological relevant lipid compositions on microstructured Si/SiO2 chips that allow for high-throughput screening of both membrane transport and viral membrane fusion. Simultaneous observation of hundreds of single-membrane channels yields statistical information revealing population heterogeneities of the pore assembly and conductance of the bacterial toxin α-hemolysin (αHL). The influence of lipid composition and ionic strength on αHL pore formation was investigated at the single-channel level, resolving features of the pore-assembly pathway. Pore formation is inhibited by a specific antibody, demonstrating the applicability of the platform for drug screening of bacterial toxins and cell-penetrating agents. Furthermore, fusion of H3N2 influenza viruses with suspended lipid bilayers can be observed directly using a specialized chip architecture. The presented micropore arrays are compatible with fluorescence readout from below using an air objective, thus allowing high-throughput screening of membrane transport in multiwall formats in analogy to plate readers.