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We report the use of a novel microfluidics-based method to detect weak protein-protein interactions between membrane proteins. The tight junction protein, claudin-2, synthesised in vitro using a cell-free expression system in the presence of polymer vesicles as membrane scaffolds, was used as a model membrane protein. Individual claudin-2 molecules interact weakly, although the cumulative effect of these interactions is significant. This effect results in a transient decrease of average vesicle dispersivity and reduction in transport speed of claudin-2-functionalised vesicles. Polymer vesicles functionalised with claudin-2 were perfused through a microfluidic channel and the time taken to traverse a defined distance within the channel was measured. Functionalised vesicles took 1.19 to 1.69 times longer to traverse this distance than unfunctionalised ones. Coating the channel walls with protein A and incubating the vesicles with anti-claudin-2 antibodies prior to perfusion resulted in the functionalised vesicles taking 1.75 to 2.5 times longer to traverse this distance compared to the controls. The data show that our system is able to detect weak as well as strong protein-protein interactions. This system offers researchers a portable, easily operated and customizable platform for the study of weak protein-protein interactions, particularly between membrane proteins.


Darren Cherng-wen Tan, I Putu Mahendra Wijaya, Mirjam Andreasson-Ochsner, Elena Nikolaevna Vasina, Madhavan Nallani, Walter Hunziker, Eva-Kathrin Sinner. A novel microfluidics-based method for probing weak protein-protein interactions. Lab on a chip. 2012 Aug 7;12(15):2726-35

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PMID: 22641189

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