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How membrane proteins distribute and behave on the surface of cells depends on the molecules' chemical potential. However, measuring this potential, and how it varies with protein-to-protein distance, has been challenging. Here, we present a method we call hydrodynamic trapping that can achieve this. Our method uses the focused liquid flow from a micropipette to locally accumulate molecules protruding above a lipid membrane. The chemical potential, as well as information about the dimensions of the studied molecule, are obtained by relating the degree of accumulation to the strength of the trap. We have used this method to study four representative proteins, with different height-to-width ratios and molecular properties; from globular streptavidin, to the rod-like immune cell proteins CD2, CD4 and CD45. The data we obtain illustrates how protein shape, glycosylation and flexibility influence the behaviour of membrane proteins, as well as underlining the general applicability of the method.

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Journal article


Sci Rep

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CD2 Antigens, CD4 Antigens, Humans, Hydrodynamics, Leukocyte Common Antigens, Lipid Bilayers, Membrane Proteins, Membranes, Streptavidin