A new method pushes the frontier in imaging resolution, with the potential to distinguish individual features in single molecules.(BOSTON) — Proteins mostly do not work in isolation but rather make up larger complexes like the molecular machines that enable cells to communicate with each other, move cargo around in their interiors or replicate their DNA. Our ability to observe and track each individual protein within these machines is crucial to our ultimate understanding of these processes. Yet, the advent of super-resolution microscopy that has allowed researchers to start visualizing closely positioned molecules or molecular complexes with 10-20 nanometer resolution is not powerful enough to distinguish individual molecular features within those densely packed complexes.
A team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering led by Core Faculty member Peng Yin, Ph.D., has, for the first time, been able to tell apart features distanced only 5 nanometers from each other in a densely packed, single molecular structure and to achieve the so far highest resolution in optical microscopy. Reported on July 4 in a study in Nature Nanotechnology, the technology, also called "discrete molecular imaging" (DMI), enhances the team’s DNA nanotechnology-powered super-resolution microscopy platform with an integrated set of new imaging methods.