Using a light-triggered chemical tool, Johns Hopkins scientists have refined a means of moving individual molecules around inside living cells -- even sending them to exact locations at precise times. The Hopkins team spatially restricted molecular interactions to a small portion of the cell by attaching a light-triggered chemical to a bulky molecule. The bond between the two would break when researchers shined a defined beam of ultraviolet light on it, which allowed the chemical to enter the cell and force two different and specific proteins in that cell to mingle when they otherwise wouldn't.
"By using one magical chemical set off by light, we modified our previous technique for moving molecules around and gained much more control," said Takanari Inoue, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology and member of the Center for Cell Dynamics in the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. This new tool may allow scientists to see how molecules in certain cell locations can influence cell behavior. The work was published online December 13 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.