The new electron microscopy technique reveals the previously unknown locations of two neuronal proteins called SynCAM1 and SynCAM2. The first is an adhesion protein found at the synapse – or communications link – of neurons sending information. Its close relative, SynCAM2, is used by neurons receiving information. Neurons that send information are distinguishable because they contain synaptic vesicles, which are used to store neurotransmitters for communications use. In these images, the vesicles resemble small hollow circles.
Modifying a protein from a plant much favored by science, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and colleagues have created a new type of genetic tag visible under an electron microscope, illuminating life in never-before-seen detail.
Led by Nobel laureate Roger Tsien, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and UCSD professor of pharmacology, chemistry and biochemistry, a team of scientists radically re-engineered a light-absorbing protein from the cress plant Arabidopsis thaliana. When exposed to blue light, the altered protein produces abundant singlet oxygen, a form of molecular oxygen that can be made visible by electron microscopy (EM).