Protein synthesis, from transcription, to translation, protein self-assembly and folding events, is a key process in all biological systems, and is critical for structural and functional regulatory mechanisms. DNA mutations and protein misfolding and abnormal assembly have been shown to play a role in illness such as diabetes and the neurodegenerative diseases Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Understanding these processes can deliver crucial impulses in the search for new therapeutic approaches.
Single-stranded RNA and DNA molecules can be assembled to form highly complex 1D, 2D, and 3D superstructures - termed DNA/RNA origami - with specific, synthetic functionalities. These nucleic acid nanostructures can be fabricated for various applications in live cell imaging and used to explore the structure and function of proteins. DNA origami has been used to directly visualize the various stages of transcription and conformational changes in proteins.
Investigating DNA and RNA binding proteins, molecular scaffolds and nucleic acid-protein interactions in real-time at the subcellular level requires state-of-the-art bioimaging capabilities. The ability to apply time-dependent and force-induced structural changes to investigate biological events is a valuable tool that enables researchers to study the folding of proteins into functional structures, the unfolding force of membrane proteins, how proteins undergo conformational transitions, and the interactions between binding partners.