Streptavidin interfacing as a general strategy to localize fluorescent membrane tension probes in cells†
To image the mechanical properties of biological membranes, twisted push–pull mechanophores that respond to membrane tension by planarization in the ground state have been introduced recently. For their application in biological systems, these so-called fluorescent flippers will have to be localized to specific environments of cellular membranes. In this report, we explore streptavidin as a versatile connector between biotinylated flipper probes and biotinylated targets. Fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy with LUVs and GUVs reveal the specific conditions needed for desthiobiotin-loaded streptavidin to deliver biotinylated flippers selectively to biotinylated membranes. Selectivity for biotinylated plasma membranes is also observed in HeLa cells, confirming the compatibility of this strategy with biological systems. Streptavidin interfacing does not affect the mechanosensitivity of the flipper probes, red shift in the excitation maximum and fluorescence lifetime increase with membrane order and tension, as demonstrated, inter alia, using FLIM.