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, 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.
Reference: “A Programmable DNA Origami Platform for Organizing Intrinsically Disordered Nucleoporins within Nanopore Confinement” by Patrick D. Ellis Fisher, Qi Shen, Bernice Akpinar, Luke K. Davis, Kenny Kwok Hin Chung, David Baddeley, Anđela Šarić, Thomas J. Meli†, Bart W. Hoogenboom, Chenxiang Lin and C. Patrick Lusk, 19 January 2018, ACS Nano.