Indiana University

After winning international competition in 2012, IU imaging center has two finalists this year

  • Dec. 3, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two exceptional research images captured at Indiana University’s Light Microscopy Imaging Center are among the 15 finalists in the international GE Healthcare Life Sciences 2013 Cell Imaging Competition. The IU center won the competition last year with an image of a dividing mammalian cell and could do so again if enough votes from scientists and the public are cast online by the Dec. 20 competition deadline.

Both of the images -- one of proteins, microtubules and DNA in a human HeLa cell and another of a newt RNA splicing factor protein and an RNA-producing enzyme called Polymerase II -- along with last year’s winner were captured using the LMIC’s $1.2 million DeltaVision OMX super-resolution microscope. The images can be viewed and votes cast at the GE Healthcare Cell Imaging competition website.

The HeLa cell image captures a moment during cell division mediated by a molecular machine called the mitotic spindle, which is composed of little polymers called microtubules and approximately a thousand other proteins. Specifically, it shows the localization of two proteins -- Kif18B (purple) and EB1 (orange) -- that are found on the very end of a 25-nanometer diameter microtubule (blue) and are important to control the assembly of the cell division machinery. Human DNA is pictured in green.

The image was taken by Jim Powers, LMIC manager and assistant research scientist, and Amber Yount, a graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Biochemistry Graduate Program working in Claire Walczak’s lab, where Yount’s research focuses on understanding how microtubule dynamics are regulated during spindle assembly. Walczak, executive director of the LMIC, is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in IU Bloomington’s Medical Sciences Program, a branch of the IU School of Medicine. Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The newt chromosome image was also taken by Powers, with the Carnegie Institution’s Joe Gall, who is considered one of the founders of modern cell biology and the field of chromosome structure and function. Gall, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was working with IU’s super-resolution microscope in an effort to learn how new RNA transcripts are folded or packaged and exactly when processing steps such as splicing occur.

Specifically, the striking image shows DNA strands marked by RNA Polymerase II staining (blue) and new RNA transcripts being expressed from a single gene marked by an RNA splicing factor (heart shaped region in red).

Powers said the LMIC submitted four images in the competition and now finds itself in a bit of a conundrum with two making the final round of 15 images.

“We’re a little worried that a split vote will hurt our chances of winning this year, so a big IU vote in general would really help,” he said. More than 15,000 votes were cast in last year’s competition.

Purchased entirely with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the structured illumination microscope uses a combination of specialized optics and computer-aided image reconstructions to break the diffraction barrier of light microscopy. Illumination occurs through the use of four colored laser lights, and advanced digital cameras can capture images at speeds of up to 10 milliseconds per image, or 5,000 full-color images per minute.

The GE 2013 Cell Imaging Competition celebrates the exceptional research of scientists across the world using IN Cell Analyzer, DeltaVision Elite and DeltaVision OMX systems in their work. IU’s OMX was built by Applied Precision, a GE Healthcare company.

Walczak and IU research associate Jane Stout, working in Walczak’s lab at the time, won last year’s competition with another image of a spindle, the subcellular structure that separates chromosomes during cell division. That image showed the individual strands within bundles of specialized structures that form the spindle.

As part of the prize for winning the competition, Stout received a trip to New York City, where the winning image was displayed on a giant video screen in Times Square.

Related Links

Newt chromosome stained for RNA splicing factor (red) and Polymerase II (blue).

Newt chromosome stained for RNA splicing factor (red) and Polymerase II (blue). | Photo by Jim Powers and Joe Gall

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HeLa cell stained for Kif18B (purple), microtubules (blue), EB1 (orange) and DNA (green).

HeLa cell stained for Kif18B (purple), microtubules (blue), EB1 (orange) and DNA (green). | Photo by Jim Powers and Amber Yount

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Media Contacts

Stephen Chaplin