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Migrating through the Cell Membrane

Interdisciplinary Research Team at Freie Universität Develops New Technology for Observing the Organization of the Cell Membrane

№ 145/2020 from Aug 27, 2020

An interdisciplinary research group at the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Freie Universität Berlin has investigated the nanoscopic organization of the cell membrane. In their study, researchers at the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry led by PhD candidate Jia Hui Li describe a new method that enables them to move membrane proteins through the plasma membrane in a controlled manner and view the position of the proteins with nanometer accuracy. The researchers used magnetic nanoparticles that are visible with fluorescence microscopy and coupled them to proteins that had been embedded in the cell membrane, so-called membrane proteins. Using magnets, they were able to drag the nanoparticles, and thus the proteins, across the cell surface until an obstacle stopped their movement. The obstacle could then be mapped very precisely using super-resolution microscopy. The scientists expect that this technique will enable them to gain a better understanding of the organization of the cell membrane. Their findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

This research was conducted at the Collaborative Research Centers CRC 958 and TRR 186. The work was supported by the Core Facility BioSupraMol.

Further Information


Li, J. H., Santos-Otte, P., Au, B., Rentsch, J., Block, S., and Ewers, H. Directed manipulation of membrane proteins by fluorescent magnetic nanoparticles. Nat. Comm. 11, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18087-3 (2020).


Prof. Dr. Helge Ewers, Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-60644, Email: helge.ewers@fu-berlin.de