, Volume 14, Issue 3-4, pp 421-429,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 26 Sep 2012

Polymer-based microfluidic device for measuring membrane protein activities


Functional assays of membrane proteins are becoming increasingly important, both in research and drug discovery applications. The majority of current assays use the patch-clamp technology to measure the activity of ion channels which are over-expressed in cells. In future, in vitro assay systems will be available, which use reconstituted membrane proteins in free-standing lipid bilayers suspended in nano- or micrometer-sized pores. Such functional assays require (1) expression, purification and reconstitution of the membrane protein of interest, (2) a reliable method for lipid bilayer formation and membrane protein integration, and (3) a sensitive detection system. For practical applications, especially for automation, the reliable and controllable transport of fluids is essential. In order to achieve a stable free-standing lipid bilayer, a pore diameter in the micro- to nanometer range is essential. Novel microfluidic devices were developed by bonding a thick (300 μm) polyether ether ketone foil, bearing a channel structure, to a thin (12 μm) foil with a micropore of about 10 μm diameter and then utilized for the formation of stable, free-standing lipid bilayers within the pore. A bacterial voltage-gated potassium channel is integrated therein by fusion and the ion channel activity detected by voltage clamp.