Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Cell on a Chip Reveals Protein Behavior

In the future, artificial cells may produce complex protein structures on demand

For years, scientists around the world have dreamed of building a complete, functional, artificial cell. Though this vision is still a distant blur on the horizon, many are making progress on various fronts. Prof. Roy Bar-Ziv and his research team in the Weizmann Institute’s Materials and Interfaces Department recently took a significant step in this direction when they created a two-dimensional, cell-like system on a glass chip.

Protein interaction on a chip: Red proteins concentrated more on the right, farther from the chip-bound genes, while green proteins are more highly concentrated on the left, closer to the genes that encode them

Illustrated biological chip: Genes (gray) are attached to the chip, along with antibodies (blue). The gene encoding the second protein is purple. RNA strands (red) are copied, and, depending on the information they encode, the proteins produced in the ribosomes (yellow) glow either green or red (green and purple cylinders)

This system, composed of some of the basic biological molecules found in cells – DNA, RNA, proteins – carried out one of the central functions of a living cell: gene expression, the process by which the information stored in the genes is translated into proteins. More than that, it enabled the scientists, led by research student Yael Heprotein yman, to obtain “snapshots” of this process in nanoscale resolution.

The system, consisting of glass chips that are only 8 nanometers thick, is based on an earlier one designed in Bar-Ziv’s lab by Dr. Shirley Daube and former student Dr. Amnon Buxboim. After being coated in a light-sensitive substance, the chips are irradiated with focused beams of ultraviolet light, which enables the biological molecules to bind to the substance in the irradiated areas.

In this way, the scientists could precisely place DNA molecules encoding a protein marked with a green fluorescent marker in one area of the chip and antibodies that “trap” the colored proteins in an abutting area. When they observed the chips under a fluorescence microscope, the area in which they had placed the antibodies turned a glowing bright green. This meant that the DNA instructions had been copied into RNA molecules, which were in turn translated into fluorescent green proteins. The green proteins were then ensnared by the antibodies.

Next, the scientists asked whether their cell-like system could reproduce complex structural assemblies of naturally-occurring proteins. This time, they attached a viral gene to the chips’ surface encoding a protein that can self-assemble into a nanotube. With the help of Dr. Sharon Wolf of the Electron Microscopy Unit, they observed a forest of minuscule tubes sprouting from the antibody area under an electron microscope.

The researchers then sought a way to produce and trap multiple proteins simultaneously by confining each protein in the area of its gene on the chip. On top of the chip to which the DNA encoding green proteins was bound, the scientists added a solution with a second gene encoding a red protein. The resulting red and green proteins competed for binding on the antibody traps, yielding a graded spatial separation in which the antibodies closest to the green genes had the highest concentration of green protein, with red concentrations rising farther afield. The results of this research recently appeared in Nature Nanotechnology.

Bar-Ziv: “We have shown that it is possible to build a protein 'production line' outside of the cell and use it to observe a spectrum of protein activities.” In the future, such a system may move from enabling the observation of proteins to providing the basis for techniques to create complex, active protein structures on demand.

Prof. Roy Bar Ziv’s research is supported by the Yeda-Sela Center for Basic Research; and the Carolito Stiftung.

Yivsam Azgad | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht From ancient fossils to future cars
21.10.2016 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht Study explains strength gap between graphene, carbon fiber
20.10.2016 | Rice University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>