Video Shows the Traffic Inside a Brain Cell

Posted on August 22, 2012

A team of scientists has lit up the inside of a neuron using bioluminescent proteins from a jellyfish and captured video footage that shows the movement of proteins throughout the cell. The video offers a rare peek at how proteins, the brain's building blocks, are directed through neurons to renew its structure.

Don Arnold, associate professor of molecular and computational biology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and co-author of a Cell Reports article about the research says, "Your brain is being disassembled and reassembled every day. "One week from today, your brain will be made up of completely different proteins than it is today. This video shows the process. We've known that it was happening, but now we can watch it happen."

Take a look:



The new imaging technique was used to cast new light on how proteins are directed to one of the two types of compartments inside the neuron: the axon or the dendrites. The axon is the region of the cell responsible for transmitting electrical signals to other cells, while the dendrites receive signals from other cells.

Sarmad Al-Bassam, USC Ph.D. student and lead author of the Cell Reports article, says, "It's been known for many decades that proteins are specifically targeted to one compartment or the other. However, we couldn't understand how the targeting occurs until we could actually watch the proteins traveling to one compartment or to the other."