Researchers could use this novel "on-off switch" to control cell growth or death, grow new tissue or deliver doses of medication directly to diseased cells, said Tucker, an assistant research professor in the biology department at Duke.
She and colleagues created the switch by genetically inserting two proteins from a mustard plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, into yeast cells, kidney cells and cultured rodent brain tissue. The two proteins interact under light to provide the control over cell functions.
The switch is similar to one described last year where researchers genetically inserted a different light-receptive plant protein and its interacting protein partner from Arabidopsis into mammalian cells. In response to red light, these proteins interacted to cause mammalian cells to change shape, moving in the direction of the light.
Tucker's switch uses Arabidopsis proteins that respond to blue light. Unlike the red-light activated proteins, which need an added cofactor, a chemical that is required for the light response, the blue-light switch doesn't need any additional chemicals to work because it uses a cofactor that naturally exists in non-plant organisms.
"It's hard to deliver a chemical to a fly or to individual cells. This new approach, with one of the molecules already in the mammalian or yeast cells, makes building a light-controlled switch a lot easier," Tucker said. Her team describes the switch in the Oct. 31 Nature Methods.
To test the switch, the team fused one of the light-sensitive Arabidopsis proteins to a red fluorescent protein and the other to a green fluorescent protein, which was in turn attached to the cell membrane. When the researchers flashed blue light on the cell, the plant proteins interacted, causing the red fluorescent protein to rapidly move to the cell membrane, which then glowed yellow due to the merging of the red and green fluorescing proteins. The team found that this interaction was reversible and could be triggered repeatedly with light exposure.
The switch is one among several that have been designed to give researchers better control of different functions of the cell. The next step in developing the switch will be to make the interacting proteins more effective, Tucker said. The approach is expected to be applicable not only for studies in cultured cells and yeast, but also worms, fruit flies, mice and other model organisms. Eventually this method could allow researchers to test how cells in a tissue affect neighboring cells in a tissue, to guide axon growth in neurons to repair brain tissue, or even to kill cancer cells.
Tucker's new approach will be a "major boon" to those who wish to apply light activation to their own experimental systems, said Klaus Hahn, a pharmacologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose lab reported on another blue-light responsive protein to control movement of mammalian cells last year.
Hahn said the "elegant work will likely see broad use, in many fields and for applications that will surprise us," and it is already going to be applied to important areas of research, such as control of gene expression.
Ashley Yeager | EurekAlert!
New application for acoustics helps estimate marine life populations
16.01.2018 | University of California - San Diego
Unexpected environmental source of methane discovered
16.01.2018 | University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
16.01.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering