Nanovid (video-enhanced) microscopy was used to determine whether lateral diffusion in the plasma membrane of colloidal gold-tagged lipid molecules is confined or is unrestricted. Confinement could be produced by domains within the plane of the plasma membrane or by filamentous barriers within the pericellular matrix. Fluorescein-phosphatidylethanolamine (F1-PE), incorporated into the plasma membranes of cultured fibroblasts, epithelial cells and keratocytes, was labeled with 30-nm colloidal gold conjugated to anti-fluorescein (anti-F1). The trajectories of the gold-labeled lipids were used to compute diffusion coefficients (DG) and to test for restricted motion. On the cell lamella, the gold-labeled lipids diffused freely in the plasma membrane. Since the gold must move through the pericellular matrix as the attached lipid diffuses in the plasma membrane, this result suggests that any extensive filamentous barriers in the pericellular matrix are at least 40 nm from the plasma membrane surface. The average diffusion coefficients ranged from 1.1 to 1.7 x 10(-9) cm2/s. These values were lower than the average diffusion coefficients (DF) (5.4 to 9.5 x 10(-9) cm2/s) obtained by FRAP. The lower DG is partially due to the pericellular matrix as demonstrated by the result that heparinase treatment of keratocytes significantly increased DG to 2.8 x 10(-9) cm2/s, but did not affect DF. Pericellular matrix viscosity was estimated from the frictional coefficients computed from DG and DF and ranged from 0.5 to 0.9 poise for untreated cells. Heparinase treatment of keratocytes decreased the apparent viscosity to approximately 0.1 poise. To evaluate the presence of domains or barriers, the trajectories and corresponding mean square displacement (MSD) plots of gold-labeled lipids were compared to the trajectories and MSD plots resulting from computer simulations of random walks within corrals. Based on these comparisons, we conclude that, if there are domains limiting the diffusion of F1-PE, most are larger than 5 microns in diameter.

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