Supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) are popular models of cell membranes. Owing to the importance of glycosphingolipids (GSLs) in modulating structure and function of membranes and membrane proteins, methods to tune the GSL content in SLBs would be desirable. Glycolipid transfer protein (GLTP) can selectively transfer GSLs between membrane compartments. Using the ganglioside GM1 as a model GSL, and two mass-sensitive and label-free characterization techniques-quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring and ellipsometry-we demonstrate that GLTP is an efficient and robust biochemical tool to dynamically modulate the GSL content of SLBs up to 10 mol % GM1, and to quantitatively control the GSL content in the bulk-facing SLB leaflet. By exploiting what we believe to be a novel tool, we provide evidence that GM1 distributes highly asymmetrically in silica-supported lipid bilayers, with ∼85% of the ganglioside being present in the bulk-facing membrane leaflet. We report also that the pentameric B-subunit of cholera toxin binds with close-to-maximal stoichiometry to GM1 in SLBs over a large range of GM1 concentrations. Furthermore, we quantify the liganding affinity of GLTP for GM1 in an SLB context to be 1.5 μM.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
R.P.R. acknowledges funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, project No. 0315157), the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN, grant Nos. MAT2008-04192 and RYC2009-04275), and the Department of Industry of the Basque Government.