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Following the sugar right from the start
Date:5/28/2010

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC), Berkeley, have successfully attached imaging probes to glycans - the sugar molecules that are abundant on the surfaces of living cells in the embryos of zebrafish less than seven hours after fertilization. Glycans are key regulators of the processes that guide cell development, and zebrafish are a top vertebrate model organism of embryogenesis. This new technique enables scientists to study the physiological changes cells undergo during embryogenesis without invading and doing damage to the embryos.

The team of researchers led by Carolyn Bertozzi, a Berkeley Lab-UC Berkeley chemical biologist and leading authority on glycobiology, used a combination of glycan metabolic labeling and copper-free click chemistry to record the earliest images ever of glycan activity on embryonic cells. The images were obtained during a stage of development in which many of the cells were still in the "multipotent stem cell" state, meaning they had yet to differentiate into specific tissue types.

"We know from earlier studies of developmental biology that glycan structures can change a lot during the early stages of embryogenesis," Bertozzi says. "With this new technology, we hope to witness some of those changes in the glycome in real time and to understand better how cell surface glycans might contribute to the decisions that stem cells make about their destiny."

Bertozzi is the director of Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry, a faculty scientist with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences and Physical Biosciences Divisions, and the T.Z. and Irmgard Chu Distinguished Professor of Chemistry as well as a professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley, and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

She is also the principal investigator and corresponding author on a paper published in th
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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