Imaging the nanometer-scale structure of the plasma membrane with super-resolution light and electron microscopy.
How does a network of interacting proteins work to accomplish a complex cellular function with extreme temporal and spatial precision? The accumulation of a large body of knowledge over the last 50 years has paved the way to understand the biology of the cell in amazing detail. While many molecules have been discovered, their effects mapped by genetics and mutational analysis, and in some cases their three dimensional structures solved with x-ray crystallography and EM, we still do not fully understand the physical basis of many cellular events. I believe that by watching the functional behavior of these large meso-scale complexes in living cells—the native states of the enzymes—we will more clearly understand their complexity, regulation, and mechanisms. Past imaging methods, however, have been insufficient to provide the detailed 3D spatial information needed for this level of understanding. Thus, new tools had to be invented to peer into the living physical structure of cells. Given this challenge, my lab has two primary goals. First, we develop new ultra-high resolution imaging and quantitative analysis methods capable of measuring the structure and dynamics of proteins and protein complexes in situ. Second, we use these tools to visualize the molecules critical to membrane recycling. Both sides of my lab, the technical and biological, work together to achieve my long term goal of understanding the structural cell biology of exocytosis and endocytosis and to define the physical mechanisms of these events which are essential to cellular life.
Dr. Justin Taraska
Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics, National Institutes of Health
My lab in the Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics, NHLBI, NIH, studies the fundamental mechanisms of exocytosis and endocytosis. I have a background in biology from Reed College with specific emphasis in cell biology. I obtained by PhD at the Vollum institute, OHSU where I developed new forms of microscopy to image single vesicles in neuroendocrine cells. I then expanded my training as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, where I learned biophysical methods including electrophysiology and fluorescence, to study protein structures. In my own lab at the NIH, I have continued to develop new methods in imaging single proteins and vesicles. We now work on super-resolution and electron microscopy techniques to study the nanometer-scale architecture of living cells. I am additionally the director of the analytical and quantitative light microscopy course at the Marine Biological Lab, Woods Hole, MA.
Molecular Engineering and Sciences Seminar Series
This weekly seminar brings together students, faculty and invited guests from various disciplines across campus to explore current trends in molecular engineering and nanotechnology. It is a forum for active interdisciplinary discussions. These talks are open to the public and attract a diverse audience of students and faculty.