Navigation Links
Closer look at cell membrane shows cholesterol 'keeping order'

Cell membranes form the "skin" of most every cell in your body, but the ability to view them up close and in motion cannot be rendered by many experimental techniques. A team of scientists working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and University of California, Irvine, recently developed a way to magnify them dramatically. Their work has helped illuminate the important role of cholesterol within this boundary between the cell and the outside world.

The multi-institutional team used tools at the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) to examine the membrane at more than 1,000 times the resolution offered by an optical microscopethe equivalent of magnifying the point of a needle to the size of a large building. This enabled an unprecedented look at the membrane, whichbecause it controls access to our cellsis a major target for many drugs.

"Drugs that affect pain sensation, heart rhythm, mood, appetite and memory all target proteins lodged in the cell membrane that function like little gates," says Ella Mihailescu of the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, a joint institute of NIST and the University of Maryland. "Because membranes and their proteins are important to medicine, we would like a better picture of how the membrane functionsand not just a better snapshot. We want to see it move, as it does constantly in real life."

Optical microscopes offer limited resolution, while the more powerful electron microscopes require freezing samples before they can be magnified. But by using neutron diffraction, which does not require frozen subjects, the team not only observed the membrane more closely and in motion, but they also gained insight into the long-known phenomenon of the membrane growing thicker and stiffer in the presence of cholesterol.

These lipid chains form a two-layer skin with the "heads" of the lipids facing outward toward the cell's exterior and interior and the "tails" intermingling on the inside of the cellular membrane. Cholesterol is known to be important for managing disorder in membranes. The team saw for the first time that when cholesterol is present, these tails line up in a tight formation, looking like a narrow stripe from which the lipid chains stretch outwardand producing the order that had been previously anticipated, but never shown directly. But without cholesterol, the tails go a bit wild, flapping around energetically and in some cases even pushing up toward their chains' heads.

Mihailescu says the findings hint that cholesterol may have profound consequences for the membrane's gatekeeper proteins, which are very sensitive to their environment. "The membrane and its proteins interact constantly, so we're curious to learn more," she says. "With this unique magnification technique, we can explore the cell membrane more effectively than ever possible, and we are now establishing a research program with the University of Maryland to do so in greater detail."


Contact: Chad Boutin
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Related biology news :

1. Getting closer to a better biocontrol for garden pests
2. Study shows hunger hitting closer to home
3. Stem cell therapy for age-related macular degeneration -- a step closer to reality
4. Researchers step closer to treatment of virulent hospital infection
5. Breakthrough on cystic fibrosis 1 step closer as new research alliance formed
6. Methane-powered laptops may be closer than you think
7. Myth of a germ-free world: A closer look at antimicrobial products
8. New clinical test to predict lupus flares moves closer to the market
9. Scientists closer to grasping how the brains hearing center spurs responses to sound
10. 1 step closer to a drug treatment for cystic fibrosis, MU professor says
11. Plant scientists move closer to making any crop drought-tolerant
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Closer look at cell membrane shows cholesterol 'keeping order'
(Date:11/9/2015)... DUBLIN , Nov. 09, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... announced the addition of the "Global ... to their offering. --> ... "Global Law Enforcement Biometrics Market 2015-2019" ... Research and Markets ( ) ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015  The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) policy ... and Biosecurity: Lessons Learned and Options for the Future," ... Human Services guidance for synthetic biology providers has worked ... --> --> Synthetic biology promises ... to pose unique biosecurity threats. It now is easier ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... NEW YORK , Oct. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... wearable technology, announced a partnership with 2XU, a ... accessories, to deliver a smart hat with advanced ... runners and other athletes to monitor key biometrics ... of the strategic partnership, the two companies will bring ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: OREX ) ... chat discussion at the Piper Jaffray 27th Annual Healthcare ... discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, December 2, at 8:00 ... replay will be available for 14 days after the ... NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business Development , BrewLife(858) 875-8629 ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... The United States Golf Association ... 2016 USGA Green Section Award. Presented annually since 1961, the USGA Green Section Award ... work with turfgrass. , Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., is an extension specialist ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Mass. (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... to maintain healthy metabolism. But unless it is bound to proteins, copper is ... of Health (NIH), researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... -- --> --> ... Market by Product & Services (Primer, Probe, Custom Oligos, ... End-User (Research, Pharmaceutical & Biotech, Diagnostic Labs) - Global ... expected to reach USD 1,918.6 Million by 2020 from ... 10.1% during the forecast period. Browse 183 ...
Breaking Biology Technology: