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Using advanced instruments, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory simultaneously acquire single-channel current records and single-molecule fluorescence images at the tip of a patch pipette. Gathering this information over time allows them to study the channel as it becomes conductive when fluorescence-labeled subunits interact in the membrane. Changes in the fluorescence intensity reveal subtle changes in the conformation of the proteins that control the conductance of the channel.

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Document Title: Seeing Cells in a Whole New Way
Category: Biomolecular Systems and Science
Media Type: Graphics
Date of Image/Photo: Summer 2002
Background: The confocal patch clamp microscope, developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Cellular Observatory, helps researchers understand important molecular processes that occur in the cell membrane, such as how channel proteins within the membrane regulate the passing of ions in and out of the cell. Researchers use this specialized instrument to look at the tiny piece of membrane between the walls of the pipette and measure the ion current passing through the channel proteins. Tools such as the confocal patch clamp microscope allow researchers to study cellular functions, at the subcellular, cellular, tissue and organ scales, to help accelerate discovery and understand the biochemical networks and pathways that carry out essential processes in living organisms.
URL of this page: http://picturethis.pnl.gov/picturet.nsf/by+id/AMER-5D7Q3U

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