Super resolution fluorescence imaging analyses, simulations and applications

University dissertation from KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Fluorescence methods offer extraordinary sensitivity and specificity, and are extensively used in the life sciences. In recent years, super resolution fluorescence imaging techniques have developed strongly, uniquely combining ~10 nm sub diffraction resolution and specific labeling with high efficiency. This thesis explores this potential, with a major focus on Stimulated Emission Depletion, STED, microscopy, applications thereof, image analyses and simulation studies. An additional theme in this thesis is development and use of single molecule fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, FCS, and related techniques, as tools to study dynamic processes at the molecular level. In paper I the proteins cytochrome-bo3 and ATP-synthase are studied with fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy, FCCS. These two proteins are a part of the energy conversion process in E. coli, converting ADP into ATP. We found that an increased interaction between these proteins, detected by FCCS, correlates with an increase in the ATP production. In paper II an FCS-based imaging method is developed, capable to determine absolute sizes of objects, smaller than the resolution limit of the microscope used. Combined with STED, this may open for studies of membrane nano-domains, such as those investigated by simulations in paper VII. In paper III and paper IV super resolution STED imaging was applied on Streptococcus Pneumoniae, revealing information about function and distribution of proteins involved in the defense mechanism of the bacteria, as well as their role in bacterial meningitis. In paper V, we used STED imaging to investigate protein distributions in platelets. We then found that the adhesion protein P-selectin changes its distribution pattern in platelets incubated with tumor cells, and with machine learning algorithms and classical image analysis of the STED images it is possible to automatically distinguish such platelets from platelets activated by other means. This could provide a strategy for minimally invasive diagnostics of early cancer development, and deeper understanding of the role of platelets in cancer development. Finally, this thesis presents Monte-Carlo simulations of biological processes and their monitoring by FCS. In paper VI, a combination of FCCS and simulations was applied to resolve the interactions between a transcription factor (p53) and an oncoprotein (MDM2) inside live cells. In paper VII, the feasibility of FCS techniques for studying nano-domains in membranes is investigated purely by simulations, identifying the conditions under which such nano-domains would be possible to detect by FCS. In paper VIII, proton exchange dynamics at biological membranes were simulated in a model, verifying experimental FCS data and identifying fundamental mechanisms by which membranes mediate proton exchange on a local (~10nm) scale.

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