The lipid bilayer is the basic structure common to biological membranes. A large fraction of all proteins are associated with membranes, and, as a class, these constitute a huge and diverse target for drug development. Fluidity is critical for biological functions that depend upon the lateral association or clustering of multiple components as well as for processes that change membrane topology such as endo- and exocytocis and fusion. This proposal outlines new types of experiments that probe these two basic aspects of membrane dynamics: the mechanism of vesicle fusion (Aim 1) and the lateral association of certain lipids and membrane anchored proteins into rafts (Aim 2).
Both aims depend upon the development of new supported lipid bilayer architectures and analytical methods that can have a broad impact on studies of biological membranes.
Aim 1 - Vesicle fusion mechanisms using mobile tethered vesicles: Vesicles can be tethered to fluid supported bilayers and are free to diffuse parallel to the plane of the supported bilayer. The trajectories and collisions of individual tethered vesicles can be visualized by video microscopy. Vesicles displaying different proteins, such as the SNARE proteins, will be tethered at different locations on the supported bilayer, and their subsequent diffusion, docking, hemifusion and fusion can then be monitored in real time at the level of individual vesicles. This new assay system is ideally suited for critical tests of the hypothesis that SNARE proteins are necessary and sufficient for fusion. New methods are proposed for preparing very well defined populations of tethered vesicles displaying specific numbers of v- and t-SNAREs, so that the threshold numbers of cognate proteins needed for each step can be established. Other protein co-factors will then be investigated.
Aim 2 - Correlated motion in rafts - composition analysis with 30 nm lateral resolution: The concept of lipid rafts is a useful theme for explaining the origin of specific associations within membranes, despite the overall fluidity of the membrane. Rafts have proven to be quite difficult to study as inter-component correlations may be transient and/or extend over distances that are smaller than the diffraction limit of optical microscopy. We propose to develop new methods to characterize the composition of membranes with very high spatial resolution by multi-isotope imaging mass spectrometry (MIMS). MIMS can be used to determine the composition of a single layer of molecules with a lateral resolution of about 30 nm and extraordinary sensitivity, with the identities of the components encoded by isotopic substitution. Using this method it should be possible to establish the proximity and lateral composition variations of lipids, glycolipids and membrane anchored proteins with unprecedented lateral resolution and without the use of fluorescence labels.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-SSS-B (01))
Program Officer
Chin, Jean
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Stanford University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Moss 3rd, Frank R; Shuken, Steven R; Mercer, Jaron A M et al. (2018) Ladderane phospholipids form a densely packed membrane with normal hydrazine and anomalously low proton/hydroxide permeability. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115:9098-9103
Fried, Stephen D; Boxer, Steven G (2017) Electric Fields and Enzyme Catalysis. Annu Rev Biochem 86:387-415
Moss 3rd, Frank R; Boxer, Steven G (2016) Atomic Recombination in Dynamic Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry Probes Distance in Lipid Assemblies: A Nanometer Chemical Ruler. J Am Chem Soc 138:16737-16744
Rawle, Robert J; Boxer, Steven G; Kasson, Peter M (2016) Disentangling Viral Membrane Fusion from Receptor Binding Using Synthetic DNA-Lipid Conjugates. Biophys J 111:123-31
Mercer, Jaron A M; Cohen, Carolyn M; Shuken, Steven R et al. (2016) Chemical Synthesis and Self-Assembly of a Ladderane Phospholipid. J Am Chem Soc 138:15845-15848
Lozano, Mónica M; Hovis, Jennifer S; Moss 3rd, Frank R et al. (2016) Dynamic Reorganization and Correlation among Lipid Raft Components. J Am Chem Soc 138:9996-10001
Hughes, Laura D; Rawle, Robert J; Boxer, Steven G (2014) Choose your label wisely: water-soluble fluorophores often interact with lipid bilayers. PLoS One 9:e87649
van Lengerich, Bettina; Rawle, Robert J; Bendix, Poul Martin et al. (2013) Individual vesicle fusion events mediated by lipid-anchored DNA. Biophys J 105:409-19
Hughes, Laura D; Boxer, Steven G (2013) DNA-based patterning of tethered membrane patches. Langmuir 29:12220-7
Chung, Minsub; Koo, Bon Jun; Boxer, Steven G (2013) Formation and analysis of topographical domains between lipid membranes tethered by DNA hybrids of different lengths. Faraday Discuss 161:333-45; discussion 419-59

Showing the most recent 10 out of 27 publications