Illustration by H.D. Vishwarao, K.A. Kasischke, M.A. Williams and W.W. Webb
The image above is from the cover of the July 1 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and relates to a "paper of the week" article titled "Conformational dependence of intracellular NADH on metabolic state revealed by associated fluorescence anisotrophy," by H.D. Vishwasrao, A.A. Heikal, K.A. Kasischke and W.W. Webb. Caption: "Metabolic dynamics in the brain are imaged using the fluorescence of endogenous reduced beta-nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH). Fluorescence measurements, however, are complicated by the dependence of the quantum efficiency of NADH on its free/bound state. Time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy discriminates free/bound NADH and shows a preferential increase in free NADH during the normoxic (blue curve) to hypoxic (red curve) metabolic transition."
By discovering a crucial piece of submicroscopic information about how the brain converts fuel into energy for neurons, Cornell University biophysicists have gleaned new insights into brain cell metabolism that will allow neurologists to better interpret data from such diagnostic tests as positron emission tomography (PET) scans and a specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test.
The discovery uncovers a key piece of information that’s been missing for years about cell metabolism -- how the compound beta-nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) interacts in the mitochondria. The researchers discovered that some molecules of NADH are bound to other molecules in the mitochondria, while some are free in two different conformations. Whether NADH is bound or free affects how much it fluoresces in diagnostic tests -- and not knowing this has led scientists in the past to misjudge the amount of activity in neural cells.
The findings, published as a paper of the week in the July 1 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry (Vol. 280), are based on research in the biophysics lab directed by Watt W. Webb, the S.B. Eckert Professor in Engineering at Cornell. The journal’s cover illustration was designed by Webb with images from his biophysics lab by Karl Kasischke, Harshad Vishwasrao and Dan Dombeck.
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