Experimental Imaging Center

Live-cell single-molecule microscopy

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Coordinator

Davide Mazza

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Despite being first introduced in biomedical research over a century ago, fluorescence microscopy is ageing extremely well. Thanks to genetically encoded fluorescent reporters such as GFP (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2008), it is possible to localize and follow biological events in real time in living cells. Further, the interaction between light and fluorescent molecules allows to circumvent physical barriers once thought unsurpassable and collect images of biological samples with details on the nanometer spatial scale, as demonstrated by the recent advances in super-resolution microscopy (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014). Fluorescence microscopy is also sensitive enough to detect and track an individual ("single") molecule as it moves and interacts with its partners, leading to quantitative analysis on a "molecule by molecule" base of protein dynamics, protein-protein interactions, gene expression and more.

Research activity

Our R&D team focuses on developing and applying single molecule approaches to quantifying dynamic events in individual living cells. In particular, we have pioneered a single- molecule approach to quantify the interaction kinetics between nuclear proteins (transcription factors) and its binding sites on DNA, and we are currently applying it to dissect the causes that underlie activation and inactivation of those transcription factors that act as tumor suppressors or oncogenes in cancer settings.

Together with these activities, we support members of our scientific community interested in developing/applying assays in advanced fluorescence microscopy, ranging from protocol development, to data acquisition and data analysis for F-techniques ultrasensitive, single molecule and single-particle imaging and super-resolution microscopy.