Following a protein nano-rover on the cell membrane

The human body is composed of billions of cells, each one representing the smallest self-sustaining unit of life. We know that surfaces of our cells are carpeted with a layer of densely crowded molecules which rush about in a perpetual frenzy. In the blink of an eye, these molecules undergo thousands of collisions with one another as well as with the perilously rough nanoscale terrain upon which they reside. The function of the cell as a whole emerges out of the sum of these interactions. How does being constantly bumped and corralled, knocked and propelled permit a protein to operate? The details of these events have long evaded even the best of conventional imaging microscopies.

Now, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light (MPL) and the newly established Max-Planck-Zentrum für Physik und Medizin can watch this molecular mobility in 3D in both real time and slow motion. With a technique called Interferometric Scattering (iSCAT) microscopy, invented in their laboratories, they can now watch the nanoscale motion of proteins on the cell surface at a very fast speed.

For more information see the Nature Photonics article "Interferometric scattering microscopy reveals microsecond nanoscopic protein motion on a live cell membrane" or read more about this in the full Press Release.



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