Polycystic kidney disease is one of the most common life-threatening genetic diseases, affecting an estimated 12.5 million people worldwide, and but one of multiple conditions researchers have connected to defective cilia. UGA researchers recenty published a study describing how cilia are constructed, findings based on new protein-level observations:
Led by Karl Lechtreck, assistant professor in the department of cellular biology, a team of researchers utilized Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence microscopy to analyze moving protein particles inside cilia of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a widely used unicellular model for the analysis of cilia. Results of the study were published in the online version of Current Biology on December 5.
The interdisciplinary team included researchers from the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering, Dartmouth College and the University of Minnesota.
"Because cilia are very complex and their construction requires the transport of hundreds of different proteins, direct evidence at the molecular level requires a very sensitive imaging technique," said Lechtreck, who is a member of the Integrated Life Sciences Program.
In TIRF microscopy, laser light is reflected to generate an evanescent field that allows for the imaging of single proteins. "That field is very thin-30 to 300 nanometers in thickness-and flagella have a thickness of 200 nm, approximately 500 times thinner than a human hair. TIRF allows us to now precisely see what is going on inside the flagella of living cells," Lechtreck explained.
Terrific collaborative work that is going to affect the model of how cilium development is understood. Fundamental developments like these have real effects on entire fields of medical science and eventually disease treatments themselves. Not one without the other.
Image: specimen observation chamber during TIRF illumination, courtesy of Lechtreck research group.