We have used a model system to explore the importance of long-range lateral diffusion of membrane proteins in specific membrane-membrane adhesion. Single, cell-size phospholipid vesicles containing a dinitrophenyl (DNP)-lipid hapten were maneuvered into contact with rat basophilic leukemia (RBL) cells carrying fluorescent anti-DNP IgE in their cell-surface Fc epsilon receptors. Upon cell-vesicle contact the antibody molecules underwent a marked lateral redistribution, accumulating at the site of contact and becoming significantly depleted from noncontacting membrane. As assayed with a micropipette suction method, there was a time-dependent increase in the strength of cell-vesicle adhesion. This development of adhesion paralleled the kinetics of accumulation of the adhesion-mediating antibody molecules at the zone of membrane-membrane contact. Both adhesion and redistribution were absolutely dependent upon a specific interaction of the IgE with the hapten: No redistribution occurred when vesicles lacking the DNP hapten were pushed against IgE-armed RBL cells, and on cells bearing a 1:1 mixture of nonimmune rat IgE and anti-DNP mouse IgE, only the latter underwent redistribution. Vesicles containing DNP-lipids bound to RBL cells carrying anti-DNP IgE but not to cells carrying nonimmune rat IgE. Measurable nonspecific binding did not develop even after 15 min of pushing DNP-bearing vesicles against RBL cells sensitized with nonimmune IgE. Neither redistribution nor adhesion was blocked by metabolic poisons such as NaN3 and NaF. Both redistribution and adhesion occurred in plasma membrane blebs previously shown to lack cytoskeletal filaments. The above observations are consistent with contact-induced redistribution of the IgE being a result of passive diffusion-mediated trapping rather than active cellular responses. Thus, long-range diffusion of specific proteins can in some cases contribute to the formation of stable adhesion between membranes.

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