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Berkeley Lab scientists develop new tool for the study of spatial patterns in living cells
Date:11/1/2011

ucleus. These membranes provide a barrier that restrains the movement of proteins and other cellular molecules, penning them into their proper locations and preventing them from moving into areas where they do not belong. Past spatial patterning efforts on artificial membranes have been done on an all-or-nothing basis proteins placed on a membrane either had complete mobility or were fixed in a static position.

"Immobile patterning intrinsically defeats any cellular process that naturally involves movement," Groves says. "On the other hand we need to be able to impose some fixed barriers in order to manipulate membranes in really novel ways."

Groves is a recognized leader in the development of unique "supported" synthetic membranes that are constructed out of lipids and assembled onto a substrate of solid silica. He and his group have used these supported membranes to demonstrate that living cells not only interact with their environment through chemical signals but also through physical force.

"We call our approach the spatial mutation strategy because molecules in a cell can be spatially re-arranged without altering the cell in any other way," he says.

However, until now Groves and his group were unable to get to the tens of nanometers length-scales that they can now reach by embedding their supported membranes with gold nanoparticles.

"Our new membranes provide a hybrid interface consisting of mobile and immobile components with controlled geometry," Groves says. "Proteins or other cellular molecules can be associated with the fluid lipid component, the fixed nanoparticle component, or both."

The gold nanoparticle arrays were patterned through a self-assembly process that provides controllable spacing between particles in the array in the important range of 50 to 150 nanometers. The gold nanoparticles themselves measure about five to seven nanometers in diameter.

Groves and his team successfully t
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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