Visual Biochemistry: modular microfluidics enables kinetic insight from time-resolved cryo-EM

Mart-Erik Maeots, Byungjin Lee, Andrea Nans, Seung-Geun Jeong, Mohammad M. N. Esfahani, Daniel J. Smith, Chang-Soo Lee, Sung Sik Lee, Matthias Peter, Radoslav I. Enchev

Like 0 Comment

Received Date: 28th February 20

Mechanistic understanding of biochemical reactions requires structural and kinetic characterization of the underlying chemical processes. However, no single experimental technique can provide this information in a broadly applicable manner and thus structural studies of static macromolecules are often complemented by biophysical analysis. Moreover, the common strategy of utilizing mutants or crosslinking probes to stabilize otherwise short- lived reaction intermediates is prone to trapping off-pathway artefacts and precludes determining the order of molecular events. To overcome these limitations and allow visualisation of biochemical processes at near-atomic spatial resolution and millisecond time scales, we developed a time-resolved sample preparation method for cryo-electron microscopy (trEM). We integrated a modular microfluidic device, featuring a 3D-mixing unit and a delay line of variable length, with a gas-assisted nozzle and motorised plunge-freeze set-up that enables automated, fast, and blot-free sample vitrification. This sample preparation not only preserves high-resolution structural detail but also substantially improves protein distribution across the vitreous ice. We validated the method by examining the formation of RecA filaments on single-stranded DNA. We could reliably visualise reaction intermediates of early filament growth across three orders of magnitude on sub-second timescales. Quantification of the trEM data allowed us to characterize the kinetics of RecA filament growth. The trEM method reported here is versatile, easy to reproduce and thus readily adaptable to a broad spectrum of fundamental questions in biology.

Read in full at bioRxiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

Go to the profile of Nature Communications

Nature Communications

Nature Research, Springer Nature