07-Oct-2019 - Leibniz-Institut für Photonische Technologien e.V.

Tracking the HI virus

Researchers makes visible, how AIDS pathogens multiply in the body

An international team of researchers led by Dr Cyril Favard and Dr Delphine Muriaux from the Montpellier Infectious Disease Research Institute in collaboration with Prof. Dr Christian Eggeling from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT), and the University of Oxford has succeeded in using high-resolution imaging to make visible how the HI virus spreads between living cells and which molecules it requires for this. Using superresolution STED fluorescence microscopy, the researchers provide direct proof for the first time that the AIDS pathogen creates a certain lipid environment for replication. "We have thus created a method for investigating how this multiplication can potentially be prevented," says Christian Eggeling.

The researchers focused on the sluice through which the HI virus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) emerges from the cell after having infected it: the plasma membrane of the host cell. They used the protein Gag as a marker, which coordinates the processes involved in the maturation of the virus. "Where this protein accumulates, the decisive processes take place that lead to the virus releasing itself and infecting other cells," explains Christian Eggeling. In order to decipher these, the researchers examined the diffusion at this budding site of the virus particle. They found out that only certain lipids interact with the HI virus. Although these lipids were already known in principle, the research team was able to prove this interaction directly in living and infected cells for the first time.

Point of attack to prevent the virus from multiplying

"This provides us with a potential target for antiviral drugs," says Christian Eggeling. "Knowing which molecules the HI virus needs in order to leave the cell and multiply is a crucial prerequisite for investigating how this can be prevented. With our technology, we can now follow this directly.“ Christian Eggeling and his team now want to develop antibodies that attack precisely these molecules — and thus suppress the spread of the virus.

"We not only want to study these antibodies from a medical point of view, but also to find out how their biophysical interaction can be used to enhance their efficacy," says Eggeling, describing his research program. "For this purpose, we analyze biological processes — namely the interaction of cells and molecules - with the aid of physical parameters such as diffusion. A good year ago, the physicist moved from Oxford to Jena. In addition to his professorship for "Superresolution Microscopy" at the university, he heads the research department "Biophysical Imaging" at Leibniz IPHT. He also leads his research group at the MRC Human Immunology Unit and at the Wolfson Imaging Centre of the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford University.

Christian Eggeling combines spatially superresolution fluorescence microscopy techniques with methods that enable the movement of labelled molecules to be tracked in real time in order to understand how diseases develop at the smallest molecular level. This enables him and his team of researchers to investigate individual molecules - for example in cell membranes - in living cells spatially and temporally. "This enables us to reveal cellular mechanisms at the molecular level that are far too fast for previous investigation methods and run on spatial scales that are far too small.

Christian Eggeling has already researched new superresolution fluorescence microscopy techniques at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen in the group of Stefan W. Hell. Together with Eric Betzig and William E. Moerner, Stefan Hell received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2014. In Jena, Eggeling is now working closely with biologists and physicians to find out how these methods can be used to detect diseases earlier and more accurately and possibly even prevent them.

Leibniz-Institut für Photonische Technologien e.V.

Request information now

Recommend news PDF version / Print

Share on

Facts, background information, dossiers
  • high-resolution imaging
  • HI viruses
  • AIDS
  • STED microscopy
  • fluorescence microscopy
More about IPHT
  • News

    Unraveling the optical parameters: New method to optimize plasmon enhanced spectroscopy

    For exploring the nanoscale far beyond the optical resolution limit, tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) is widely recognized as an essential yet still emergent technique. Using this marker-free spectroscopic method scientists gain insights into the structural and chemical composition of ... more

    Synapses in 3D

    Our brain consists of countless nerve cells that transmit signals from one cell to the next. The connections between these cells, the synapses, provide a key to understanding how our memory works. An American research team in collaboration with Rainer Heintzmann from the Leibniz Institute o ... more

    Motion pictures from living cells

    In order to observe cells at work, researchers have to bypass a physical law. One of the fastest techniques to overcome the resolution limit of classical light microscopy is high-resolution structured illumination microscopy. It makes visible details that are about a hundred nanometres in s ... more

More about University of Oxford
More about Uni Jena
  • News

    How smart, ultrathin nanosheets go fishing for proteins

    An interdisciplinary team from Frankfurt and Jena has developed a kind of bait with which to fish protein complexes out of mixtures. Thanks to this “bait”, the desired protein is available much faster for further examination in the electron microscope. The research team has christened this ... more

    Controlling cells with light

    Photopharmacology investigates the use of light to switch the effect of drugs on and off. Now, for the first time, scientific teams from Jena, Munich, and New York have succeeded in using this method to control a component of cells that was previously considered inaccessible. Present everyw ... more

    Unraveling the optical parameters: New method to optimize plasmon enhanced spectroscopy

    For exploring the nanoscale far beyond the optical resolution limit, tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) is widely recognized as an essential yet still emergent technique. Using this marker-free spectroscopic method scientists gain insights into the structural and chemical composition of ... more