Medical researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW; Sydney, Australia) have achieved unprecedented resolution capabilities in single-molecule microscopy aimed at detecting interactions between individual molecules within intact cells.1
The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded for the development of superresolution fluorescence microscopy technology that afforded microscopists the first molecular view inside cells, a capability that has provided new molecular perspectives on complex biological systems and processes. While individual molecules could be observed and tracked with superresolution microscopy already, interactions between these molecules occur at a scale at least four times smaller than that resolved by existing single-molecule microscopes.
“The reason why the localization precision of single-molecule microscopes is around 20 to 30 nm normally is because the microscope actually moves while we’re detecting that signal,” says Scientia Professor Katharina Gaus, research team leader and Head of UNSW Medicine’s EMBL Australia Node in Single Molecule Science. “This leads to an uncertainty. With the existing superresolution instruments, we can’t tell whether or not one protein is bound to another protein because the distance between them is shorter than the uncertainty of their positions.”