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 Why do animals fight members of other species?
24.04.2015 | University of California - Los Angeles

nachricht Is a small artificially composed virus fragment the key to a Chikungunya vaccine?
24.04.2015 | Paul-Ehrlich-Institut - Bundesinstitut für Impfstoffe und biomedizinische Arzneimittel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Elektromobilität: Ultraleichtes Kraftpaket für das elektrische Fliegen

Siemens hat einen einzigartigen Elektromotor entwickelt, der hohe Leistung mit einem minimalen Gewicht kombiniert. Durch konsequente Optimierung aller Komponenten stellt der neue Antrieb in seiner Klasse einen Weltrekord beim Leistungsgewicht auf. Dadurch kommt der routinemäßige Einsatz von elektrisch angetriebenen Flugzeugen oder Helikoptern einen großen Schritt näher.

Manchmal lässt sich eine technische Revolution ganz knapp in einer einzigen Zahl zusammenfassen. In diesem Fall lautet sie: fünf Kilowatt pro Kilogramm – das...

Im Focus: Fast and Accurate 3-D Imaging Technique to Track Optically-Trapped Particles

KAIST researchers published an article on the development of a novel technique to precisely track the 3-D positions of optically-trapped particles having complicated geometry in high speed in the April 2015 issue of Optica.

Daejeon, Republic of Korea, April 23, 2015--Optical tweezers have been used as an invaluable tool for exerting micro-scale force on microscopic particles and...

Im Focus: Von Innen nach Außen: Rätsel der galaktischen Scheiben gelöst

Ein Team von Astronomen unter der Leitung von Ivan Minchev, Wissenschaftler am Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), hat mithilfe hochmoderner theoretischer Modelle das Rätsel um die Entwicklung der Galaxienscheiben gelöst. Die jetzt veröffentlichte Studie zeigt, dass sich Sternpopulationen gleichen Alters durch Galaxienkollisionen nach außen hin ausweiten. Ähnlich wie die Blüten einer Rose reichern sich diese Populationen schichtweise in der Galaxie an und formen so allmählich die dicke Scheibe.

„Wir können nun zum ersten Mal zeigen, dass dicke Scheiben nicht nur aus alten Sterngenerationen bestehen, sondern – in einem größeren Abstand zum...

Im Focus: NOAA, Tulane identify second possible specimen of 'pocket shark' ever found

Pocket sharks are among the world's rarest finds

A very small and rare species of shark is swimming its way through scientific literature. But don't worry, the chances of this inches-long vertebrate biting...

Im Focus: Morbus Crohn: neuer Entstehungsmechanismus entschlüsselt

Bakteriengemeinschaften verursachen Darmentzündung

Morbus Crohn zählt zu den chronisch-entzündlichen Darmerkrankungen (CED). Bei der Krankheit spielt die genetische Veranlagung eine Rolle - und offenbar auch...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

Internationale Familienunternehmensforschung

24.04.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Internationaler Tag der Immunologie am 29. April 2015

24.04.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Wirtschaftsempfang 2015: WissensRÄUME

24.04.2015 | Veranstaltungen

 
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Simulation und virtuelle Welten: Virtueller Messerundgang mit dem Smartphone

24.04.2015 | Informationstechnologie

Elektromobilität: Ultraleichtes Kraftpaket für das elektrische Fliegen

24.04.2015 | Energie und Elektrotechnik

Siemens integriert Sitop-Stromversorgung in Prozessleitsystem Simatic PCS 7

24.04.2015 | Messenachrichten