A team of researchers at Georgia State University has developed a new approach for detecting intracellular calcium activity. The study, led by Regent’s professor of chemistry, Jenny Yang, demonstrates the effectiveness of a red biosensor that can directly monitor calcium at specific locations within cells. This is a discovery that may help in a better understanding of the molecular basis of human disease.
Calcium is essential for many physiological processes, including the health and function of the muscular, nervous, circulatory and digestive systems. Calcium amplifies signaling molecules that drive intracellular responses, controls the release of neurotransmitters (chemical transmitters that transmit signals from neurons), causes muscle cell contraction, and aids fertility. Calcium is also important for proper bone formation, and many intracellular processes require or use calcium.
Given this broad function, calcium movements and levels serve as excellent indicators of biological mechanisms and changes. However, previous attempts to develop calcium sensor tools that can monitor rapid signal changes have proven limited due to the slow response of reported sensors.
“The challenge is how to capture these rapid changes in a very specific location,” said Yang, deputy director of diagnostic and therapeutic centers and director of advanced translational imaging facilities. I am. “For example, if there is muscle damage, there is a change in calcium in certain muscle cells, which happens very quickly.”
To better capture these signals, Yang and her colleagues have created a method for designing calcium binding sites on the surface of some fluorescent proteins.Studies published in the journal Angewandte ChemieShows that the red calcium sensor, known as R-CatchER, is very sensitive to detecting calcium signals of multiple cell types. This discovery is a milestone by Yang and her team, who have spent decades developing and improving technology. They recently published a paper in the journal on the development of a green calcium sensor known as G-CatchER +. iScience.
“The proteins we use can identify fleeting changes and directly measure calcium activity,” says Yang. “We can monitor calcium events in healthy cells and see how they change with the condition.”
Ultimately, R-CatchER may be useful for laboratory research and research. For example, determine if there is a link between changes in calcium and a particular illness. Their technology may also be useful in drug discovery.
“We have a unique approach to understanding how calcium regulates aging events and pathologies. This tool provides which signaling pathways are associated with the disease, and drug compounds. You can tell scientists exactly how they change when treated with calcium, “Yang said. “It can indicate the specific location that the drug needs to be targeted for it to be effective.”
Researchers say the next step is to apply the technology to animal models to help them better understand how various cellular events are involved in disease.
Known as a pioneer in what she calls “calciomics,” Yang is developing computational research and calcium sensor tools that incorporate protein chemistry, biology, cell biology, and neuroscience. In 2019, she was elected a National Inventor Academy Fellow in honor of her work.
Co-authors of this study include PhD student Xiaonan Deng, professor of chemistry Donald Hamelberg, and postdoctoral chemistry Xinqiu Yao.