Membrane order in the plasma membrane and endocytic recycling compartment
The cholesterol content of membranes plays an important role in organizing membranes for signal transduction and protein trafficking as well as in modulating the biophysical properties of membranes. While the properties of model or isolated membranes have been extensively studied, there has been little evaluation of internal membranes in living cells. Here, we use a Nile Red based probe, NR12S, and ratiometric live cell imaging, to analyze the membrane order of the plasma membrane and endocytic recycling compartment. We find that after a brief incubation to allow endocytosis, NR12S is distributed between the plasma membrane and the endocytic recycling compartment. The NR12S reports that the endocytic recycling compartment is more highly ordered than the plasma membrane. We also find that the plasma membrane and the endocytic recycling compartment are differentially affected by altering cellular cholesterol levels. The membrane order of the plasma membrane, but not the endocytic recycling compartment, is altered significantly when cellular cholesterol content is increased or decreased by 20%. These results demonstrate that changes in cellular cholesterol differentially alter membrane order within different organelles.