Biosensor beacon

By Vanessa Schipani Biosensor beacon Courtesy of Carsten Grashoff, Brenton Hoffman, and Martin Schwartz The paper C. Grashoff et al., “Measuring mechanical tension across vinculin reveals regulation of focal adhesion dynamics,” Nature, 466:263-66, 2010. Free F1000 EvaluationThe tool Mechanical force affects a wide range of biological phenomena, from DNA replication to strengthening bones, yet there was “no calibrated method of trac

Vanessa Schipani
Nov 1, 2010

Biosensor beacon

Courtesy of Carsten Grashoff, Brenton Hoffman, and Martin Schwartz

The paper

C. Grashoff et al., “Measuring mechanical tension across vinculin reveals regulation of focal adhesion dynamics,” Nature, 466:263-66, 2010. Free F1000 Evaluation

The tool

Mechanical force affects a wide range of biological phenomena, from DNA replication to strengthening bones, yet there was “no calibrated method of tracing which proteins and which structures actually carry the force” in a cell, said Martin Schwartz of the University of Virginia. So Schwartz and colleagues designed a biosensor that measures force across a protein in a living cell with piconewton sensitivity.

The technique

The researchers attached fluorescent tags to each end of a spring-like peptide that would glow brightly when the spring collapsed under lack of tension (force). The sensing tool was then spliced in between the head and tail regions of vinculin, a protein present in focal adhesions that links...

The finding

Using the biosensor, Schwartz showed that the vinculin molecules at the leading edge of a migrating cell were subject to a greater force than the vinculin at the rear of the cell, where the cell released its attachment proteins.

The demand

“This paper introduces a promising new technology to biomechanics,” writes Faculty Member Harold Erickson in his review. Already, Schwartz says he's been bombarded with requests for the tool.

F1000 evaluators: H. Erickson (Duke Univ Med Ctr) • V. Tang (UI-Urbana-Champaign) • M. Morgan and M. Humphries (Univ Manchester) • J. Lammerding (Brigham and Women’s Hosp, Harvard Med School) • M. Maddugoda and A. Yap (Inst for Mol Bioscience, Australia Cell Biology) • D. Webb (Vanderbilt Univ Med Ctr.)

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