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 Discovery of a Key Regulatory Gene in Cardiac Valve Formation
24.05.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Carcinogenic soot particles from GDI engines
24.05.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Orientierungslauf im Mikrokosmos

Physiker der Universität Würzburg können auf Knopfdruck einzelne Lichtteilchen erzeugen, die einander ähneln wie ein Ei dem anderen. Zwei neue Studien zeigen nun, welches Potenzial diese Methode hat.

Der Quantencomputer beflügelt seit Jahrzehnten die Phantasie der Wissenschaftler: Er beruht auf grundlegend anderen Phänomenen als ein herkömmlicher Rechner....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Tumult im trägen Elektronen-Dasein

Ein internationales Team von Physikern hat erstmals das Streuverhalten von Elektronen in einem nichtleitenden Material direkt beobachtet. Ihre Erkenntnisse könnten der Strahlungsmedizin zu Gute kommen.

Elektronen in nichtleitenden Materialien könnte man Trägheit nachsagen. In der Regel bleiben sie an ihren Plätzen, tief im Inneren eines solchen Atomverbunds....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Hauchdünne magnetische Materialien für zukünftige Quantentechnologien entwickelt

Zweidimensionale magnetische Strukturen gelten als vielversprechendes Material für neuartige Datenspeicher, da sich die magnetischen Eigenschaften einzelner Molekülen untersuchen und verändern lassen. Forscher haben nun erstmals einen hauchdünnen Ferrimagneten hergestellt, bei dem sich Moleküle mit verschiedenen magnetischen Zentren auf einer Goldfläche selbst zu einem Schachbrettmuster anordnen. Dies berichten Wissenschaftler des Swiss Nanoscience Institutes der Universität Basel und des Paul Scherrer Institutes in der Wissenschaftszeitschrift «Nature Communications».

Ferrimagneten besitzen zwei magnetische Zentren, deren Magnetismus verschieden stark ist und in entgegengesetzte Richtungen zeigt. Zweidimensionale, quasi...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

Meeresschutz im Fokus: Das IASS auf der UN-Ozean-Konferenz in New York vom 5.-9. Juni

24.05.2017 | Veranstaltungen

Diabetes Kongress in Hamburg beginnt heute: Rund 6000 Teilnehmer werden erwartet

24.05.2017 | Veranstaltungen

Wissensbuffet: „All you can eat – and learn”

24.05.2017 | Veranstaltungen

 
VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Hochspannung für den Teilchenbeschleuniger der Zukunft

24.05.2017 | Physik Astronomie

3D-Graphen: Experiment an BESSY II zeigt, dass optische Eigenschaften einstellbar sind

24.05.2017 | Physik Astronomie

Optisches Messverfahren für Zellanalysen in Echtzeit - Ulmer Physiker auf der Messe "Sensor+Test"

24.05.2017 | Messenachrichten