Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How to build your gate

15.07.2013
New approach solves large molecular puzzles

It's a parent's nightmare: opening a Lego set and being faced with 500 pieces, but no instructions on how to assemble them into the majestic castle shown on the box. Thanks to a new approach by scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, researchers studying large sets of molecules with vital roles inside our cells can now overcome a similar problem. In a study published online today in Science, the scientists used super-resolution microscopy to solve a decade-long debate about the structure of the nuclear pore complex, which controls access to the genome by acting as a gate into the cell’s nucleus.


The Universe within: gates to the genome.
Credit: EMBL/A. Szymborska

Like the flummoxed parent staring at the image on the box, scientists knew the gate’s overall shape, from electron tomography studies. And thanks to techniques like X-ray crystallography and single particle electron microscopy, they knew that the ring which studs the nucleus’ wall and controls what passes in and out is formed by sixteen or thirty-two copies of a Y-shaped building block. They even knew that each Y is formed by nine proteins. But how the Ys are arranged to form a ring was up for debate.

“When we looked at our images, there was no question: they have to be lying head-to-tail around the hole” says Anna Szymborska, who carried out the work.

To figure out how the Ys were arranged, the EMBL scientists used fluorescent tags to label a series of points along each of the Y’s arms and tail, and analysed them under a super-resolution microscope. By combining images from thousands of nuclear pores, they were able to obtain measurements of where each of those points was, in relation to the pore’s centre, with a precision of less than a nanometre – a millionth of a millimetre. The result was a rainbow of rings whose order and spacing meant the Y-shaped molecules in the nuclear pore must lie in an orderly circle around the opening, all with the same arm of the Y pointing toward the pore’s centre.

Having resolved this decade-old controversy, the scientists intend to delve deeper into the mysteries of the nuclear pore – determining whether the circle of Ys is arranged clockwise or anticlockwise, studying it at different stages of assembly, looking at other parts of the pore, and investigating it in three dimensions.

“There’s been a lot of interest from other groups,” says Jan Ellenberg, who led the work, “so we’ll soon be looking into a number of other molecular puzzles, like the different ‘machines’ that allow a cell to divide, which are also built from hundreds of pieces.”

The work was carried out in collaboration with John Briggs’ group at EMBL, who helped adapt the image averaging algorithms from electron microscopy to super-resolution microscopy, and Volker Cordes at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemisty in Göttingen, Germany, who provided antibodies and advice.

Further information

How many copies of each piece build the nuclear pore? The Beck and Lemke labs did the math.

Source Article

Szymborska, A., Marco, A., Daigle, N., Cordes, V.C., Briggs, J.A.G. & Ellenberg, J. Nuclear Pore Scaffold Structure Analyzed by Super-Resolution Microscopy and Particle Averaging. Published online in Science Express on 11 July 2013. DOI: 10.1126/science.1240672.

Article Abstract

Much of life’s essential molecular machinery consists of large protein assemblies that currently pose challenges for structure determination. A prominent example is the nuclear pore complex (NPC), for which the organization of its individual components remains unknown. By combining stochastic super-resolution microscopy, to directly resolve the ring-like structure of the NPC, with single particle averaging, to use information from thousands of pores, we determined the average positions of fluorescent molecular labels in the NPC with a precision well below 1 nm. Applying this approach systematically to the largest building block of the NPC, the Nup107-160 subcomplex, we assessed the structure of the NPC scaffold. Thus, light microscopy can be used to study the molecular organization of large protein complexes in situ in whole cells.

Press Contact

Sonia Furtado Neves
EMBL Press Officer, Meyerhofstraße 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Tel:
+49 6221 387-8263
E-mail:
sonia.furtado@embl.de
Policy regarding use
Press and Picture Releases
EMBL press and picture releases including photographs, graphics, movies and videos are copyrighted by EMBL. They may be freely reprinted and distributed for non-commercial use via print, broadcast and electronic media, provided that proper attribution to authors, photographers and designers is made.

Sonia Furtado Neves | EMBL Research News
Further information:
http://www.embl.de/aboutus/communication_outreach/media_relations/2013/130711_Heidelberg/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Show me your leaves - Health check for urban trees
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Liver Cancer: Lipid Synthesis Promotes Tumor Formation
12.12.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>