TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Now that the genome (DNA) of humans and many other organisms have been sequenced, biologists are turning their attention to discovering how the many thousands of structural and control genes -- the worker bees of living cells that can turn genes on and off -- function.
To do that, they need to develop new techniques and tools. Scientists in the Optical Microscopy group at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University, working in collaboration with researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada and the University of California, San Diego, have done just that, and in the process have produced back-to-back articles in the prestigious journal Nature Methods.
In the first paper, magnet-lab biologists Michael Davidson and Kristen Hazelwood worked with researchers from the University of Alberta to create two new fluorescent-protein biosensors, molecular beacons that can tell if there is activity within a cell. The biosensors can be used simultaneously to monitor two separate dynamic functions in a single cell -- a key to understanding how different proteins and enzymes (the biomolecules that cause chemical reactions) work together to complete the daily chores that help cells grow and divide. Knowing how cells work together can help researchers learn a great deal more about tumors and developmental biology, among many other things.
The researchers improved a powerful technique used to monitor cellular dynamics called fluorescence resonance energy transfer, or FRET. The technique is used to examine a new class of biosensor molecules that tether two fluorescent proteins together through an intervening peptide (which is like a polymer). Several hundred of these new biosensors have been developed over the past few years and are being used by scientists around the world to study a variety of functions, including programmed cell death, carbohydrate metabolism, cell division, hormone stimulati
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Florida State University