optical tweezers can stably trap giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) containing iodixanol with controlled membrane tension. We also observed that small unilAMEllar Vesicles are rigid enough to resist large pulling force.
Despite their wide applications into soluble macromolecules, optical tweezers have rarely been used to characterize dynamics of membrane proteins, mainly due to lack of model membranes compatible with optical trapping. Here, we found that optical tweezers can stably trap giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) containing iodixanol with controlled membrane tension, which can potentially serve as a model membrane to study dynamics of membranes, membrane proteins, or their interactions. We also observed that small unilamellar vesicles (SUVs) are rigid enough to resist large pulling force and offer potential advantages to pull membrane proteins. To demonstrate the use of both model membranes, we pulled membrane tethers from the trapped GUVs and measured the folding or binding dynamics of a single DNA hairpin or synaptotagmin-1 C2 domain attached to the GUV or SUV with high spatiotemporal resolution. Our methodologies facilitate single-molecule manipulation studies of membranes or membrane proteins using optical tweezers.