"As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words," says Jeremy Baskin, the lead author on this new PNAS paper who is now doing post-doctoral research at Yale University. "In our case, the glycan imaging technology led directly to the observation that membrane-associated glycans traffic laterally within the plasma membrane to the cleavage furrow during cell division. Down the road, we hope to learn the precise molecular structures of the glycans involved in this process and what roles they play."
Baskin says the ability of this click chemistry technique to provide visualization of specific molecules in cells is an important first step toward an eventual understanding of the function of these molecules.
"By perturbing the system using genetic or pharmacological means and then observing any changes in glycan localization and behavior through imaging," he says, "we may be able to understand the many functions of glycans in embryogenesis and many other physiological processes, including diseases."
Bertozzi says she and her colleagues are following up their glycan imaging studies of zebrafish embryos with mechanistic studies that will help determine what role the labeled glycans might play in the process of cell division.
"There are other applications of glycan imaging in mice that we also are aggressively pursuing," she says, "such as tumor imaging, in addition to studies of how glycans change during embryogenesis."
|Contact: Lynn Yarris|
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory