Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 
Datenbankrecherche:

 

Visualizing Biological Networks in 4D

12.02.2013
A unique microscope invented at Caltech captures the motion of DNA structures in space and time

Every great structure, from the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, depends on specific mechanical properties to remain strong and reliable. Rigidity—a material's stiffness—is of particular importance for maintaining the robust functionality of everything from colossal edifices to the tiniest of nanoscale structures.


A DNA structure as seen through the 4D electron microscope invented at Caltech.
Credit: Zewail & Lorenz/Caltech

In biological nanostructures, like DNA networks, it has been difficult to measure this stiffness, which is essential to their properties and functions. But scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have recently developed techniques for visualizing the behavior of biological nanostructures in both space and time, allowing them to directly measure stiffness and map its variation throughout the network.

The new method is outlined in the February 4 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"This type of visualization is taking us into domains of the biological sciences that we did not explore before," says Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail, the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry and professor of physics at Caltech, who coauthored the paper with Ulrich Lorenz, a postdoctoral scholar in Zewail's lab. "We are providing the methodology to find out—directly—the stiffness of a biological network that has nanoscale properties."

Knowing the mechanical properties of DNA structures is crucial to building sturdy biological networks, among other applications. According to Zewail, this type of visualization of biomechanics in space and time should be applicable to the study of other biological nanomaterials, including the abnormal protein assemblies that underlie diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Zewail and Lorenz were able to see, for the first time, the motion of DNA nanostructures in both space and time using the four-dimensional (4D) electron microscope developed at Caltech's Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology. The center is directed by Zewail, who created it in 2005 to advance understanding of the fundamental physics of chemical and biological behavior.

"In nature, the behavior of matter is determined by its structure—the arrangements of its atoms in the three dimensions of space—and by how the structure changes with time, the fourth dimension," explains Zewail. "If you watch a horse gallop in slow motion, you can follow the time of the gallops, and you can see in detail what, for example, each leg is doing over time. When we get to the nanometer scale, that is a different story—we need to improve the spatial resolution to a billion times that of the horse in order to visualize what is happening."

Zewail was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his development of femtochemistry, which uses ultrashort laser flashes to observe fundamental chemical reactions occurring at the timescale of the femtosecond (one millionth of a billionth of a second). Although femtochemistry can capture atoms and molecules in motion, giving the time dimension, it cannot concurrently show the dimensions of space, and thus the structure of the material. This is because it utilizes laser light with wavelengths that far exceed the dimension of a nanostructure, making it impossible to resolve and image nanoscale details in tiny physical structures such as DNA .

To overcome this major hurdle, the 4D electron microscope employs a stream of individual electrons that scatter off objects to produce an image. The electrons are accelerated to wavelengths of picometers, or trillionths of a meter, providing the capability for visualizing the structure in space with a resolution a thousand times higher than that of a nanostructure, and with a time resolution of femtoseconds or longer.

The experiments reported in PNAS began with a structure created by stretching DNA over a hole embedded in a thin carbon film. Using the electrons in the microscope, several DNA filaments were cut away from the carbon film so that a three-dimensional, free-standing structure was achieved under the 4D microscope.

Next, the scientists employed laser heat to excite oscillations in the DNA structure, which were imaged using the electron pulses as a function of time—the fourth dimension. By observing the frequency and amplitude of these oscillations, a direct measure of stiffness was made.

"It was surprising that we could do this with a complex network," says Zewail. "And yet by cutting and probing, we could go into a selective area of the network and find out about its behavior and properties."

Using 4D electron microscopy, Zewail's group has begun to visualize protein assemblies called amyloids, which are believed to play a role in many neurodegenerative diseases, and they are continuing their investigation of the biomechanical properties of these networks. He says that this technique has the potential for broad applications not only to biological assemblies, but also in the materials science of nanostructures.

Funding for the research outlined in the PNAS paper, "Biomechanics of DNA structures visualized by 4D electron microscopy," was provided by the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology at Caltech is supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Written by Katie Neith

Deborah Williams-Hedges | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.caltech.edu
http://www.caltech.edu/content/visualizing-biological-networks-4d

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nesting aids make agricultural fields attractive for bees
20.07.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht The Kitchen Sponge – Breeding Ground for Germs
20.07.2017 | Hochschule Furtwangen

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Molekulares Lego

Sie können ihre Farbe wechseln, ihren Spin verändern oder von fest zu flüssig wechseln: Eine bestimmte Klasse von Polymeren besitzt faszinierende Eigenschaften. Wie sie das schaffen, haben Forscher der Uni Würzburg untersucht.

Bei dieser Arbeit handele es sich um ein „Hot Paper“, das interessante und wichtige Aspekte einer neuen Polymerklasse behandelt, die aufgrund ihrer Vielfalt an...

Im Focus: Das Universum in einem Kristall

Dresdener Forscher haben in Zusammenarbeit mit einem internationalen Forscherteam einen unerwarteten experimentellen Zugang zu einem Problem der Allgemeinen Realitätstheorie gefunden. Im Fachmagazin Nature berichten sie, dass es ihnen in neuartigen Materialien und mit Hilfe von thermoelektrischen Messungen gelungen ist, die Schwerkraft-Quantenanomalie nachzuweisen. Erstmals konnten so Quantenanomalien in simulierten Schwerfeldern an einem realen Kristall untersucht werden.

In der Physik spielen Messgrößen wie Energie, Impuls oder elektrische Ladung, welche ihre Erscheinungsform zwar ändern können, aber niemals verloren gehen oder...

Im Focus: Manipulation des Elektronenspins ohne Informationsverlust

Physiker haben eine neue Technik entwickelt, um auf einem Chip den Elektronenspin mit elektrischen Spannungen zu steuern. Mit der neu entwickelten Methode kann der Zerfall des Spins unterdrückt, die enthaltene Information erhalten und über vergleichsweise grosse Distanzen übermittelt werden. Das zeigt ein Team des Departement Physik der Universität Basel und des Swiss Nanoscience Instituts in einer Veröffentlichung in Physical Review X.

Seit einigen Jahren wird weltweit untersucht, wie sich der Spin des Elektrons zur Speicherung und Übertragung von Information nutzen lässt. Der Spin jedes...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: Das Proton präzise gewogen

Wie schwer ist ein Proton? Auf dem Weg zur möglichst exakten Kenntnis dieser fundamentalen Konstanten ist jetzt Wissenschaftlern aus Deutschland und Japan ein wichtiger Schritt gelungen. Mit Präzisionsmessungen an einem einzelnen Proton konnten sie nicht nur die Genauigkeit um einen Faktor drei verbessern, sondern auch den bisherigen Wert korrigieren.

Die Masse eines einzelnen Protons noch genauer zu bestimmen – das machen die Physiker um Klaus Blaum und Sven Sturm vom Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik in...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

IHR
JOB & KARRIERE
SERVICE
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics
Veranstaltungen

Operatortheorie im Fokus

20.07.2017 | Veranstaltungen

Technologietag der Fraunhofer-Allianz Big Data: Know-how für die Industrie 4.0

18.07.2017 | Veranstaltungen

DFG unterstützt Kongresse und Tagungen - September 2017

17.07.2017 | Veranstaltungen

 
VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

1,4 Millionen Euro für Forschungsprojekte im Industrie 4.0-Kontext

20.07.2017 | Förderungen Preise

Von photonischen Nanoantennen zu besseren Spielekonsolen

20.07.2017 | Physik Astronomie

Bildgebung von entstehendem Narbengewebe

20.07.2017 | Biowissenschaften Chemie