Single-molecule biophysics lab
Jong-Bong Lee (Physics, School of Interdisciplinary Bioscience and Bioengineering)
The phenomena of life, ranging from gene replication and protein synthesis to intercellular information exchange, are governed by such biomolecules as protein, DNA and RNA. Investigating the process of such phenomena demands the deployment of technology that allows scientists to closely observe the activity of proteins and other biomolecules.
The Single-molecule Biophysics Laboratory directed by professor Jong-Bong Lee at the Department of Physics/School of Interdisciplinary Bioscience and Bioengineering, POSTECH, leverages single molecule imaging to study a range of phenomena that take place within a cell. Single-molecule imaging employs total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy with an unparalleled signal-to-noise ratio as well as fluorescence microscopy used to observe fluorescence-marked molecules in order to trace the movement of biomolecules at the nanometer level.
One of the Lab’s key research themes is the ‘DNA mismatch repair mechanism’, a theme which has captured the minds of researchers at the Lab for over a decade since 2007. A cell nucleus contains approximately 3 billion DNA base pairs. The genetic information therein is replicated and moved outside the cell to produce proteins. If any mismatch occurs during the DNA replication process, it could potentially trigger the growth of cancer or other disorders. A human cell, however, has protein enzymes capable of identifying and repairing damaged genetic information. The Lab successfully elucidated on the mismatch repair process through its observations made on the interactions among such enzymes. The research findings were featured in the internationally-acclaimed journal of ‘Nature’ on November 17, 2016.
The Lab is also exploring a number of cell-level phenomena associated with DNA-based protein synthesis, including but not limited to how proteins create DNA-enzyme complexes within a cell and how proteins are synthesized within mRNA regions. Recently, researchers at the Lab have been probing into the formation of ‘intercellular nanotubes’, thin tubes that connect cells with materials for information exchange.
Research on the phenomena of life contains two overarching approaches: researchers either look into why a specific event occurs or the process of how it occurs. The latter ‘how’ question can be only answered by meticulously observing biomolecules as the main agent of such phenomena. Harnessing single molecule imaging enables researchers to observe the activity of biomolecules in real time to solve the mysterious puzzles of life phenomenon that has yet remained unexplained, and such research certainly serves to invoke a sense of awe towards life itself.
Head of Lab
Science Building Ⅲ 006