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Cells have a variety of genes and cellular pathways. The history of these events can be seen using a light microscope, thanks to the work of MIT engineers.

These chains are created by cells that add building blocks. Researchers will be able to reconstruct the timing of the events with the help of fluorescent molecule labeling.

This technique can shed light on the steps that underlie processes such as memory formation.

Edward Boyden is a professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at MIT.

If the technique could be extended to work over a longer period of time, it could be used to study aging and disease progression.

Boyden is one of the authors of the study. An assistant professor at the University of Michigan is the lead author of the paper.

History of cells.

There are many different types of cells in biological systems. One way to study these functions is to look at themolecules inside the cells which give clues to what the cells are doing. Only a glimpse of a single moment in time is offered by most methods.

There are many types of cells in a biological system. The human brain contains 86 billion cells. We need to observe the events in the large cell populations over time.

The research team came up with the idea of recording cellular events as a series of proteins that are continuously added to a chain. In order to create their chains, the researchers used engineered proteins that can self-assemble.

The researchers created a system in which one of these subunits is continuously produced inside cells, while the other is generated only when a specific event happens. The researchers chose the tags called HA and V5 because they were short. It's easy to see the tags later on when they bind to a different fluorescent antibodies.

The researchers made production of the V5 subunit contingent on the c-fos gene being activated. c-fos was activated when the V5 tag showed up in the chain.

Linghu wants to use this kind of self-assembly to record activity in every cell. It's a snapshot in time, but also records past history, like how tree rings can permanently store information over time as the wood grows.

The events are being recorded.

The researchers used their system to record the activity of c-fos in the petri dishes. The c-fos genes was activated by the addition of the V5 subunit.

The researchers wanted to see if this approach could work in the brains of animals. The researchers were able to detect that exposure with the help of a light microscope.

The system was designed to be modular, so that different tags can be swapped in, or different types of cellular events can be detected.

Extending the recording period that they can achieve is one of the goals of the researchers. The events were recorded for several days. There is a tradeoff between the amount of time that can be recorded and the amount of time that can be recorded in a single event.

Linghu says that the total amount of information could be fixed, but that we could increase the speed of the growth of the chain. If we want to record for a long time, we could slow down the synthesis so that it will reach the size of the cell within a couple of weeks. We could record longer in that way.

The researchers are working on engineering the system so that it can record more than one type of event in the same chain.

There is more information about the recording of cellular Physiological histories. The DOI is 10.1038/s4158

Journal information: Nature Biotechnology

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Citation: Self-assembling proteins can store cellular 'memories' (2023, January 2) retrieved 2 January 2023 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.