Microscopic glass beads wearing coats identical to the outer membrane of a cell provide a powerful assay for proteins that bind to cell membranes, such as protein drugs or drug candidates, according to chemists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).
This time-lapse movie depicts clustered beads breaking up and dispersing when protein is added to a solution. The protein binds to receptors in the membrane coating the glass beads, altering the random clustering of beads and making the protein-receptor interaction easy to see.
(Credit: Jay Groves/UC Berkeley)
The membrane-coated beads, complete with receptors that dot the surfaces of real cells, also would make a sensitive detection system for viruses or protein toxins like those produced by cholera, anthrax and tetanus bacteria.
The detection system is extremely sensitive - when proteins latch onto receptors in the membrane, the coated beads disperse like pool balls after a break. This dispersal can easily be seen through a microscope, making robotic screening possible.
Robert Sanders | UC Berkeley
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