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2009 | 56 | 1 | 33-39
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Giant unilamellar vesicles - a perfect tool to visualize phase separation and lipid rafts in model systems

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Model systems such as black lipid membranes or conventional uni- or multilamellar liposomes are commonly used to study membrane properties and structure. However, the construction and dimensions of these models excluded their direct optical microscopic observation. Since the introduction of the simple method of liposome electroformation in alternating electric field giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) have become an important model imitating biological membranes. Due to the average diameter of GUVs reaching up to 100 µm, they can be easily observed under a fluorescent or confocal microscope provided that the appropriate fluorescent probe was incorporated into the lipid phase during vesicle formation. GUVs can be formed from different lipid mixtures and they are stable in a wide range of physical conditions such as pH, pressure or temperature. This mini-review presents information about the methods of GUV production and their usage. Particularly, the use of GUVs in studying lipid phase separation and the appearance and behavior of lipid domains (rafts) in membranes is discussed but also other examples of GUVs use in membrane research are given. The experience of the authors in setting up the GUV-forming equipment and production of GUVs is also presented.

Physical description
  • Department of Biophysics Wrocław Medical University, Wrocław, Poland
  • Department of Biophysics Wrocław Medical University, Wrocław, Poland
  • Department of Biophysics Wrocław Medical University, Wrocław, Poland
  • Department of Biology and Medical Parasitology, Wrocław Medical University, Wrocław, Poland
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