The requirement of center asymmetry for the creation of second harmonic generation (SHG) signals makes it an attractive technique for visualizing changes in interfacial layers such as the plasma membrane of biological cells. In this article, we explore the use of lipophilic SHG probes to detect minute perturbations in the plasma membrane. Three candidate probes, Di-4-ANEPPDHQ (Di-4), FM4-64, and all-trans-retinol, were evaluated for SHG effectiveness in Jurkat cells. Di-4 proved superior with both strong SHG signal and limited bleaching artifacts. To test whether rapid changes in membrane symmetry could be detected using SHG, we exposed cells to nanosecond-pulsed electric fields, which are believed to cause formation of nanopores in the plasma membrane. Upon nanosecond-pulsed electric fields exposure, we observed an instantaneous drop of ∼50% in SHG signal from the anodic pole of the cell. When compared to the simultaneously acquired fluorescence signals, it appears that the signal change was not due to the probe diffusing out of the membrane or changes in membrane potential or fluidity. We hypothesize that this loss in SHG signal is due to disruption in the interfacial nature of the membrane. The results show that SHG imaging has great potential as a tool for measuring rapid and subtle plasma membrane disturbance in living cells. © 2014 Biophysical Society.
Moen, E. K., Ibey, B. L., & Beier, H. T. (2014). Detecting subtle plasma membrane perturbation in living cells using second harmonic generation imaging. Biophysical Journal, 106(10). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2014.04.008