SNAREs pp 145-159 | Cite as

Using Force Spectroscopy to Probe Coiled-Coil Assembly and Membrane Fusion

  • Hannes Witt
  • Andreas JanshoffEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1860)


Force spectroscopy allows the manipulation of single molecules and the characterization of their properties and interactions thereby rendering it a powerful tool for biological sciences. Force spectroscopy at the level of individual molecules requires force resolution in the piconewton regime as achieved by optical tweezers (OT), magnetic tweezers (MT), and atomic force microscopy (AFM) with AFM providing the largest force range from tenth of piconewton to several micronewton. In membrane probe spectroscopy the commonly used sharp cantilever tip is replaced by a lipid-coated glass sphere. This technique expands the scope of force spectroscopy to processes at and between lipid bilayers, like the formation of coiled coils between SNARE (soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment receptor) proteins as well as subsequent membrane fusion. To this end, two solid-supported membranes equipped with SNARE proteins or fusion peptides are separately deposited on a flat glassy surface and on a micrometer glass sphere attached to the end of a tipless AFM cantilever. These two membranes are rapidly brought into contact until a defined force is reached. The AFM deflection readout is used to monitor the distance between the two bilayers, which allows to observe and identify fusion processes of the two lipid membranes, while the forces needed to separate the two surfaces give insights into the formation of SNARE complexes. By changing the contact pressure one can access fusion kinetics and to some extent reconstruct the energy landscape of membrane fusion. In this chapter we describe the preparation of membrane-coated colloidal probes attached to AFM cantilevers, experimental procedures, and necessary data analysis to perform membrane probe spectroscopy in the presence of fusogenic peptides or proteins.

Key words

AFM Force spectroscopy Membrane probe spectroscopy SNAREs Membrane fusion 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Physical ChemistryUniversity of GoettingenGöttingenGermany

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