Action of ‘molecular bouncers’ captured at model of nuclear membrane

With a technique called “DNA-origami,” Yale researchers have built micro-replicas of nuclear membrane channels in order to study minute protein interactions.
An illustration of nuclear membranes at the nano scale.

DNA is packaged tightly within the cell’s nuclear membranes, which contain channels that regulate the transit of macromolecules governing all of life’s functions. Yale University researchers have built a nanoscale replica of this channel and have visualized the interaction of proteins that act as “molecular bouncers,” controlling access to the channel’s 40-nanometer entrance.

In the past, we have tried to break things apart to study them, but if you really want to understand how these channels work, you should be able to build them,” said Patrick Lusk, associate professor of cell biology at Yale School of Medicine. 

In collaboration with Chenxiang Lin, an assistant professor of cell biology and a member of the Nanobiology Institute at Yale’s West Campus and colleagues at UCL, the researchers recreated key aspects of the nuclear membrane transport channels by meticulously arranging the native cellular proteins on a nano-cylinder made, constructed using a technique called “DNA-origami.” They managed to capture images of the protein interactions, seen within the cylinder in the accompanying video. The research was published in the journal ACS Nano.


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