Late embryogenesis abundant (LEA) proteins are found in desiccation-tolerant species from all domains of life. Despite several decades of investigation, the molecular mechanisms by which LEA proteins confer desiccation tolerance are still unclear. In this study, dielectrophoresis (DEP) was used to determine the electrical properties of Drosophila melanogaster (Kc167) cells ectopically expressing LEA proteins from the anhydrobiotic brine shrimp, Artemia franciscana. Dielectrophoresis-based characterization data demonstrate that the expression of two different LEA proteins, AfrLEA3m and AfrLEA6, increases cytoplasmic conductivity of Kc167 cells to a similar extent above control values. The impact on cytoplasmic conductivity was surprising, given that the concentration of cytoplasmic ions is much higher than the concentrations of ectopically expressed proteins. The DEP data also supported previously reported data suggesting that AfrLEA3m can interact directly with membranes during water stress. This hypothesis was strengthened using scanning electron microscopy, where cells expressing AfrLEA3m were found to retain more circular morphology during desiccation, while control cells exhibited a larger variety of shapes in the desiccated state. These data demonstrate that DEP can be a powerful tool to investigate the role of LEA proteins in desiccation tolerance and may allow to characterize protein-membrane interactions in vivo, when direct observations are challenging.
Rashed, Mohamed Z., et al. "New Insights into Anhydrobiosis Using Cellular Dielectrophoresis-based Characterization." 2019. Biomicrofluidics 13, 064113: 1-8.