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Institute of Advanced Study

Professor David John Nesbitt

COFUND Senior Research Fellow at Trevelyan College (April - May 2016)

Prof Nesbitt is a leading chemist, holding: Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry (UK); Presidential Rank Award, 2009; Fellow, American Chemistry Society; Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Towards single-molecule detection in biological systems in heterogeneous membranes

The ability to look with laser confocal fluorescence microscopy at the thermodynamics and kinetics of single biomolecules in real time has led to an explosion of new research opportunities in chemistry, physics and molecular biology. By way of example, the cell membrane and specifically its ubiquitous role in separating intra- and extracellular biofunctionality represents a remarkable achievement and for which the 2D diffusion dynamics at the single molecule level is now accessible via ultrasensitive photon counting and appropriate fluorescently tagged lipids. Equally important, however, are the high levels of heterogeneity in these membranes, and how this might impact biological function, e.g., diffusional mobility and adsorption/desorption kinetics. Simply summarized, one would ideally wish to study the isolated motions of lipid molecules at the same time as monitoring the overall structure and phase separation dynamics of the membrane. The major thrust of this Senior Fellowship would therefore be to couple i) state of the art single molecule fluorescence microscopy techniques from the Nesbitt group with ii) state of the art Raman detection methods from the Bain group to explore the real time diffusion dynamics of single probe molecules in supported lipid bilayers. The role of such heterogeneity in the biophysical function of cell membranes is currently a frontier research area of intense interest.