Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago think so, and a biosensor they've created that measures membrane lipid levels may open up new pathways to disease treatment.
Wonhwa Cho, distinguished professor of chemistry, and his coworkers engineered a way to modify proteins to fluoresce and act as sensors for lipid levels.
Their findings are reported in Nature Chemistry, online on Oct. 9.
"Lipid molecules on cell membranes can act as switches that turn on or off protein-protein interactions affecting all cellular processes, including those associated with disease," says Cho. "While the exact mechanism is still unknown, our hypothesis is that lipid molecules serve sort of like a sliding switch."
Cho said once lipid concentrations reach a certain threshold, they trigger reactions, including disease-fighting immune responses. Quantifying lipid membrane concentration in a living cell and studying its location in real time can provide a powerful tool for understanding and developing new ways to combat a range of maladies from inflammation, cancer and diabetes to metabolic diseases.
"It's not just the presence of lipid, but the number of lipid molecules that are important for turning on and off biological activity," said Cho.
While visualizing lipid molecules with fluorescent proteins isn't new, Cho's technique allows quantification by using a hybrid protein molecule that fluoresces only when it binds specific lipids. His lab worked with a lipid known as PIP2 -- an important fat molecule involved in many cellular processes. Cho's sensor binds to PIP2 and gives a clear signal that can be quantified through a fluorescent microscope.
The result is the first successful quantification of membrane lipids in a living cell in real time.
"We had to engineer the protein in such a way to make it very stable, behave well, and specifically recognizes a particular lipid," Cho said. He has been working on the technique for about a decade, overcoming technical obstacles only about three years ago.
Cho hopes now to create a tool kit of biosensors to quantify most, if not all lipids.
"We'd like to be able to measure multiple lipids, simultaneously," he said. "It would give us a snapshot of all the processes being regulated by the different lipids inside a cell."
Other authors on the paper are postdoctoral researcher Youngdae Yoon, who developed the sensor; Park J. Lee, a doctoral student who developed microscope tools to enable the lipid quantification; and doctoral student Svetlana Kurilova, who worked on the protein cell delivery.
Paul Francuch | EurekAlert!
Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
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...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
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,...
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...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
15.12.2017 | Life Sciences