Live recordings of cell communication

August 6, 2009

Neurons communicate with each other with the help of nano-sized vesicles. Disruption of this communication process is responsible for many diseases and mental disorders like e.g. depression. Nerve signals travel from one neuron to another through vesicles - a nano-sized container loaded with neurotransmitter molecules. A vesicle fuses with the membrane surrounding a neuron, releases neurotransmitters into the surroundings that are detected by the next neuron in line. However, we still lack a more detailed understanding of how the fusion of vesicles occurs on the nano-scale.

Associate Professor Dimitrios Stamou, Department of and and Nano-Science Center explains:

"Contact between vesicles and membranes are an essential step in many important biological processes. We can now quantify contact areas formed between vesicles and determine the vesicle size and shape with nano-scale resolution. This helps us characterise the properties of the molecules involved in vesicle-fusion. The new method opens great new prospects for the research of neurological and infectious diseases".

The researchers are using a method called FRET or . The method is well known, but what is new is the way the researchers are using it. They produce vesicles in the laboratory, which contain fluorescent donor molecules, and membranes fixed to a surface. The fixed membranes contain acceptor fluorescent molecules. Only when the two different fluorescent molecules are near to each other will light be emitted, which researchers can measure as a sign of vesicle fusion. By measuring the emitted light the researchers found new ways to determine the vesicle shape with nano-scale resolution in real-time.

"We have lacked a method for measuring the fusion of vesicle and membrane on a nano-scale at the moment the process occurs. Until now it has only been possible to get a still image of the process with high resolution, or live images with low resolution. With the new method we can quantify the changes in vesicle shape live i.e. during fusion, and with nanoscale resolution", explains Dimitrios Stamou.

Source: University of Copenhagen

Explore further: Scientists use new simulation methods to observe single events of membrane fusion with molecular resolution

Related Stories

Fusion in the fast lane

October 19, 2006

Using fast digital imaging, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany, together with researchers from College de France, have succeeded in developing two different protocols by ...

Together, biological membranes prevail

January 26, 2007

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a novel method to visualize the fusion of biological membranes at the single-event resolution. Observing the individual fusion events revealed an ...

Recommended for you

Reshaping the solar spectrum to turn light to electricity

July 28, 2015

When it comes to installing solar cells, labor cost and the cost of the land to house them constitute the bulk of the expense. The solar cells—made often of silicon or cadmium telluride—rarely cost more than 20 percent ...

Could stronger, tougher paper replace metal?

July 24, 2015

Researchers at the University of Maryland recently discovered that paper made of cellulose fibers is tougher and stronger the smaller the fibers get. For a long time, engineers have sought a material that is both strong (resistant ...

Changing the color of light

July 23, 2015

Researchers at the University of Delaware have received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to explore a new idea that could improve solar cells, medical imaging and even cancer treatments. Simply put, they want ...

Wafer-thin material heralds future of wearable technology

July 27, 2015

UOW's Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) has successfully pioneered a way to construct a flexible, foldable and lightweight energy storage device that provides the building blocks for next-generation ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

E_L_Earnhardt
not rated yet Aug 07, 2009
Vesicle fusion is relative to outer electron passing of the two atoms in proximity. First, there is a pulsing as electrons oppose, then a fusion as one electron is lost from each. (Prof. Robert Sommers dec.)
BubbiesMom
not rated yet Aug 08, 2009
this will certainly be useful for alzheimers research, I'm excited

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.