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New tool to investigate single-molecule dynamics in vivo

Facing a camera, Eline Bartolami (Bioorganic chemist, postdoc in the Matile lab, UNIGE) presents her recent work and gives emphasis on the biochemical problem behind it. Emmanuel Derivery (Group Leader, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, UK) comments with a few lines to explain the biological approach used to solve the problem. They are from different disciplines but meet through chemical biology.



Perspective by Dr. Emmanuel Derivery

Understanding how complex cell behavior emerges from the dynamics of single molecules is a major endeavor of modern cell biology. This faces a unique challenge, since single molecule dynamics occurs at very short timescales (milliseconds), while cellular dynamics occur within timescales of minutes or even hours. Meeting this challenge therefore requires the ability to follow single molecule for long period of times, which is not possible with common dyes used in fluorescence microscopy since they quickly bleach. Quantum dots, which are nanometer-scaled semiconductor nanoparticles, are of particular interest in this context due to their unrivalled brightness and photostability. However, their delivery to the cytosol of cells using chemical methods was never achieved efficiently. In this study, we solved this issue using thiol-mediated uptake. Delivery with this technology is fast (couple of hours), efficient (hundreds of particles are delivered per cells), non-toxic (which was the main issue with other chemical delivery methods) and easy to perform (simply incubate the particles with cells). Furthermore, we showed that delivered quantum dots can be functionalized with proteins of interest. This study therefore opens a new realm of possibilities for cell biologists. This actually goes beyond imaging, as the technology is general and applies to the delivery of other particles (such as magnetic particles).


Go Further

Derivery E., Bartolami E., Matile S., Gonzalez-Gaitan M., “Efficient Delivery of Quantum Dots into the Cytosol of Cells Using Cell-Penetrating Poly(disulfide)s”, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 10172–10175. Read the publication

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