Imaging of Signaling Events

Participants: Antinozzi, Fetrow, Gibson Browne, Johnson, Loeser, Marrs, Molina, Muday, Petrović, Poole, Silver

Questions: Methods of cellular and molecular visualization are the central focus of this research group. Through acquisition of high detail morphologic information, signaling mechanisms within and between cells are explored with specialized image quantification and analytic approaches. Current areas of research focus include: hormonal signaling in plants, neuropeptide communication in arthropods, chemosensory signaling mechanisms, G-coupled protein receptors, stress-physiology pathways, reactive oxidation cascades in kidney disease and cancerous cells, insulin-related signaling and secretion, and molecular transport mechanisms within cells.

Technology: The advent of novel functional and targeted fluorescent cellular probes, together with advances in microscopic imaging technologies, has made high resolution visualization of cellular and molecular signaling events a reality. Laser scanning confocal microscopy is one advanced method which facilitates these endeavors by increasing contrast and reducing out-of-focus light scatter, capturing thin optical sections from thick samples. Multi-channel fluorescent confocal microscopy permits visualization and tracking of specific targets for comparison of relative intensities or localization. Center participants have collaborated successfully to generate funding for imaging equipment. Several awards enabled the purchase and upgrade of a Zeiss 710 confocal microscope in the Microscopic Imaging Core Facility of the Biology department. This heavily utilized device has greatly facilitated signaling-related research efforts at WFU, with increased research productivity that has led to important findings reported in associated research manuscripts. However, remaining on the cutting edge of imaging-related signaling research requires acquisition of the latest technologies, tools, and equipment in order to advance the ambitious goals of center participants. The success of future proposals will depend on continued cooperative efforts among imaging group members.

Emphasis Group Activities: Critical to successful imaging research is expert data acquisition and analysis. Members of this group have significant expertise in diverse areas of imaging, including: targeted transgenic fluorophores, fluorescent indicators of reactive oxygen species, calcium imaging, FRET imaging, functional fluorescent indicators of neural activity, spectral fingerprinting, and long-term timelapse imaging. Monthly meetings will focus on ongoing group activities, advanced technical and methodological strategies, and cutting-edge future imaging technologies of interest in order to foster new and productive researcher interactions and cooperation. Activities of this subgroup are organized by Glen Marrs.

Implications: Participants in this group are building on the legacy of successful collaborations to develop greater intellectual partnerships which bridge disciplinary boundaries. The collaborative projects within this group investigate how chemotherapeutic agents kill cells, the signaling mechanisms between nutritional state and organismal energy allocation, and how reactive oxygen species contribute to various disease states. Center support will also facilitate studies of how hormones and environmental conditions affect growth, development, and nutritional content of agriculturally important crop species. The efforts of this group will serve to further establish WFU as a leader in microscopic imaging.