Fluorescent Imaging To Study Complex Signaling Networks

Researchers created a fluorescent imaging method that can simultaneously image up to five different molecule types by measuring each signal from a random, distinct location within a cell. This method could help scientists learn more about the complex signaling networks that control most cell functions.

The genome encodes thousands of molecules, interacting in ways we don’t understand. We can only understand their relationships if we watch them both simultaneously. The researchers used the fluorescent imaging technique to identify two populations of neurons that respond to calcium signals differently, which may influence how long-term memories are encoded.

Scientists typically create reporters by fusing a protein that senses a target molecule with a protein that glows to make molecular activity visible within a cell. It is analogous to how a smoke detector detects smoke and flashes a light. Green fluorescent protein (GFP), based on a molecule discovered in a fluorescent jellyfish, is the most commonly used glowing protein.

On a microscope, a biologist can typically see one or two colors simultaneously, and many of the reporters available are green because they are based on the green fluorescent protein. The technology will help us understand the ‘symphony’ of cellular activities by allowing us to observe multiple cellular signals simultaneously.

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