• Oct252013

    Thomas Hughes, PhD

    Cell Biology & Neuroscience, Montana State University

    Fluorescent proteins and biosensors in one and two photon microscopy

    The Hughes Laboratory creates new, genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors to solve fundamental problems in neuroscience. 

    Fluorescent biosensors for optically recording from excitable cells 

    Advances in electronics and neurobiology have made it possible record from excitable cells such as the neurons of the brain. This has produced tremendous advances in neuroscience, in understanding the brain, but we are only listening to one, or a few, neurons at a time. Even simple nervous systems involve hundreds of cells and thousands of connections, and it is necessary to understand how the entire circuit works. One way of doing this involves electrically recording from many different neurons at the same time. In the lab we are trying to create new generations of genetically encoded fluorescent proteins that will signal voltage changes when a neuron fires. Put simply, we are trying to fuse jellyfish fluorescent proteins to voltage-gated ion channels to produce a biosensor that we can then express in the nervous system so that neuroscientists can optically record the activity of entire neural networks.

    Looking at intracellular signaling 

    There are many signaling pathways in cells beyond simple changes in voltage. Proteins talk with one another to regulate excitability, gene expression, and even the decision of whether to live or die. We are currently developing new fluorescent methods for watching these protein interactions in real time and in living cells. This work is producing new ways of measuring intracellular signaling and hopefully some of the biosensors will speed up the process of searching for new, important drugs. 



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