Nuclear envelope assembly is a fundamental cellular process normally taking place once in every cell cycle in eukaryotes. The timing of fusion of nuclear membrane precursors to form the complete double membrane surrounding the chromosomes is tightly controlled, but much remains unclear concerning its regulation. Small amounts of material available and the high background of irrelevant cellular membranes have limited detailed analysis. We have employed several sensitive and high-resolution techniques to analyze the nuclear membrane structure, composition, and dynamics using purified membrane fractions and a cell-free system that results in nuclear envelope formation. We discuss the application of cholesterol and phospholipid colorimetric assays, fluorescent filipin labeling, electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry coupled to HPLC (HPLC-ESI/MS/MS), electron microscopy (EM), and solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Colorimetric assays determine the amounts of inorganic phosphates from phospholipids and cholesterol/ cholesteryl esters present in membrane-containing fractions. Filipin staining of natural membranes allows the localization and relative quantification of cholesterol. HPLC-ESI/MS/MS determines the quantitative composition of membrane phospholipid species from small amounts of membranes. Cryosectioning of cryoprotected sperm cells facilitates EM verification of membrane domains existing in vivo. Deuterium solid-state NMR provides information about membrane rigidity and lipid-phase behavior. The sensitivity, quantification, and structural determinations provided by these techniques should prove useful in studying membrane dynamics in a variety of systems exhibiting membrane fusion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology