Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Molecule by molecule, new assay shows real-time gene activity

16.03.2006


First ’movie’ of gene expression in live cells shows proteins being made in small bursts



Chemists at Harvard University have developed the first technique providing a real-time, molecule-by-molecule "movie" of protein production in live cells. Their direct observation of fluorescently tagged molecules in single cells -- providing striking real-time footage of the birth of individual new protein molecules inside -- greatly increases scientists’ precision in probing genetic activity.

Using the new assay, described this week in the journal Science, researchers led by Harvard’s X. Sunney Xie counted, one by one, protein molecules generated in small bursts within cells as multiple ribosomes bound to single copies of mRNA complete the process by which DNA, an organism’s long-term genetic repository, yields its crop of proteins. These random, or stochastic, bursts of protein expression are described in detail in a separate paper Xie and colleagues present this week in Nature.


"Although central to life processes, the expression of many important genes takes place at very low levels, making it difficult or impossible to observe using current technologies," says Xie, professor of chemistry and chemical biology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "Our experiments provide the most sensitive means to date of observing real-time activity of single molecules inside cells. This new technique could provide us with unprecedented insights into gene expression and many other fundamental biological processes in living cells." The central dogma of molecular biology holds that DNA is transcribed into mRNA, which is then translated into proteins. But several technical hurdles have hampered study of these key processes. Researchers’ current understanding of this two-step pathway is built upon their averaging of genetic and biochemical activity across large populations of cells and molecules, masking the essential randomness of the process at the cellular level. Furthermore, much of our knowledge on the workings of the molecular machinery involved in gene expression comes from experiments done in vitro, rather than in living cells. Finally, the low sensitivity of current techniques for detecting gene expression has restricted analysis to highly expressed genes.

Xie’s new assay addresses all three limitations. He and his colleagues melded a yellow fluorescent protein called Venus with Tsr, a hydrophobic membrane protein. The inclusion of the Tsr domain serves to anchor the fused protein to a cell’s membrane, sidestepping the longstanding difficulty of imaging single proteins zipping about in cell cytoplasm, where diffuse fluorescent signals tend to be overwhelmed by background noise.

The gene coding for this combined protein was substituted for the well-studied lacZ gene in the Escherichia coli chromosome. When lacZ’s regulatory machinery allows the modified gene to be converted into a handful of protein molecules, these Tsr-Venus hybrids migrate to the cell membrane, where each attaches firmly. The clearly visible flash from each Tsr-Venus molecule -- which when viewed across a population of cells looks somewhat akin to a sea of cellular paparazzi -- serves as an indication of that single protein molecule’s production.

"Dr. Xie’s experiments are the first to obtain quantitative, real-time information on protein expression in living cells at the single-molecule level," says Jeremy M. Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which funded the work in part. "His imaging methods open up new possibilities for addressing fundamental questions about the precise events and factors involved in regulating these essential processes. This is exactly the sort of highly innovative research with broad applicability that the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award was created to support."

Steve Bradt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.harvard.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another
27.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

nachricht New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins
27.06.2017 | Salk Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Predicting eruptions using satellites and math

28.06.2017 | Earth Sciences

Extremely fine measurements of motion in orbiting supermassive black holes

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>