Eric Betzig of HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a technique for visualizing molecules with a precision of 2–25 nm. The method has allowed tracking the behavior of single protein molecules in a living cell, including transcription factors. The image, based on a scene from an animation developed using single-molecule tracking data, shows a representation, in real-time, of how the transcription factors SOX2 and OCT4 locate their appropriate binding sites on DNA. They can be seen spending most of their time floating around the nucleus or binding to DNA at locations other than their target binding sites. Every time SOX2 and OCT4 interact with DNA, they “sample” the sequence—represented in the animation as a rapid spiraling motion around the DNA molecule.
Transcriptions factors and DNA were modeled using molecular data published on the Protein Data Bank (pdb.org). Click the link below to view the open-access publication of the original research and explore the supplemental videos to see what the raw data looks like.
Image: Fabian de Kok-Mercado MA, CMI, HHMI
Animation: Fabian de Kok-Mercado MA, CMI and Satoshi Amagai PhD, HHMI
Scientific Consultation: Zhe Liu PhD, Jiji Chen PhD, and Robert Tjian PhD, HHMI