Understanding the plasma membrane nano-scale organisation and dynamics in living cells requires microscopy techniques with high temporal and spatial resolution and long acquisition times, that also allow for the quantification of membrane biophysical properties such as lipid ordering. Among the most popular super-resolution techniques, stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy offers one of the highest temporal resolution, ultimately defined by the scanning speed. However, monitoring live processes using STED microscopy is significantly limited by photobleaching, which recently has been circumvented by exchangeable membrane dyes that only temporarily reside in the membrane. Here, we show that NR4A, a polarity-sensitive exchangeable plasma membrane probe based on Nile Red, permits the super-resolved quantification of membrane biophysical parameters in real time with high temporal and spatial resolution as well as long acquisition times. The potential of this polarity-sensitive exchangeable dyes is showcased by live-cell real-time 3D-STED recordings of bleb formation and lipid exchange during membrane fusion, as well as by STED-fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (STED-FCS) experiments for the simultaneous quantification of membrane dynamics and lipid packing, which correlate in model and live-cell membranes.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory