Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Nanotubes could help study retrovirus transmission between human cells

How to form nanotubes, simply and easily

Recent findings by medical researchers indicate that naturally occurring nanotubes may serve as tunnels that protect retroviruses and bacteria in transit from diseased to healthy cells — a fact that may explain why vaccines fare poorly against some invaders.

To better study the missions of these intercellular nanotubes, scientists have sought the means to form them quickly and easily in test tubes.

Sandia National Laboratories researchers have now learned serendipitously to form nanotubes with surprising ease.

... more about:
»Lipid »Membrane »Nanotube »Protein »Sasaki

"Our work is the first to show that the formation of nanotubes is not complicated, but can be a general effect of protein-membrane interactions alone," says Darryl Sasaki of Sandia's Bioscience and Energy Center.

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory.

The tunnel-like structures have been recognized only recently as tiny but important bodily channels for the good, the bad, and the informational.

In addition to providing protected transport to certain diseases, the nanotubes also seem to help trundle bacteria to their doom in the tentacles of microphages. Lastly, the nanotubes may provide avenues to send and receive information (in the form of chemical molecules) from cell to cell far faster than their random dispersal into the bloodstream would permit.

Given the discovery of this radically different transportation system operating within human tissues, it was natural for researchers to attempt to duplicate the formation of the nanotubes. In their labs, they experimented with giant lipid vesicles that appeared to mimic key aspects of the cellular membrane.

Giant lipid vesicles resemble micron-sized spherical soap bubbles that exist in water. They are composed of a lipid bilayer membrane only five nanometers thick.

The object for experimenters was to create conditions in which the spheres would morph into cylinders of nanometer radii.

But researchers had difficulties, says Sasaki, perhaps because they used a composite lipid called egg PC that requires unnecessarily high energies to bend into a tubular shape.

Egg PC is inexpensive, readily available, and offers good, stable membrane properties. It is the usual lipid of choice in forming nanocylinders via mechanical stretching techniques.

But Sandia postdoctoral researcher Haiqing Lui instead used POPC — a single pure lipid requiring half the bending energy of egg PC.

She was trying to generate nanotubes by a completely different approach that involved the use of motor proteins to stretch naturally occurring membranes into tubes.

Working with Sandia researcher George Bachand, she serendipitously found that interaction of the POPC membrane with a high affinity protein called streptavidin alone was enough to form the nanotubes.

"Perhaps this information — linking membrane bending energy with nanotube formation — may provide some clue about the membrane structure and the cell's ability to form such intercellular connections," Sasaki says.

The formation was confirmed by Sandia researcher Carl Hayden, who characterized the nanotube formation through a confocal imaging microscope. The custom instrument allows pixel-by-pixel examination of the protein interaction with the membranes comprising the nanotubes by detecting the spectrum and lifetimes of fluorescent labels on the proteins.

Nanotube formation had been noticed previously by cell biologists, but they had dismissed the tiny outgrowths as "junk — an aberration of cells growing in culture," says Sasaki. "The reason they were only noticed recently as trafficking routes is because of labeling studies that marked organelles and proteins. This allowed a focused look at what these nanostructures might be used for."

It became clear, says Sasaki, that the organelles were being transported with "specific directionality" on the backs of motor proteins within the tubes, rather than randomly.

Three-dimensional networks of nanotubes also are found to be created by macrophages — part of the police force of the body — grown in culture, says George. The tubes in appearance and function resemble a kind of spider web, capturing bacterium and transporting them to the macrophages, which eat them.

Neal Singer | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Lipid Membrane Nanotube Protein Sasaki

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Signaling Pathways to the Nucleus
19.03.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht In monogamous species, a compatible partner is more important than an ornamented one
19.03.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Ornithologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>