PSI recorded a sodium pump in action for the first time using a new radiation technology
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have recorded for the first time, in action, a light-driven sodium pump from bacterial cells.
It has been possible thanks to the new X-ray free-electron laser SwissFEL, used by PSI researchers for their investigations.
They used a technique called serial femtosecond crystallography. A femtosecond is one-quadrillionth of a second; a millisecond is the thousandth part.
The sample to be examined – in this case a crystallised sodium pump – is struck first by a laser and then by an X-ray beam.
In the case of bacterial rhodopsin, the laser activates the retinal, and the subsequent X-ray beam provides data on structural changes within the entire protein molecule.
Since SwissFEL produces 100 of these femtosecond X-ray pulses per second, recordings can be made with high temporal resolution.
The results promise progress in the development of new methods in neurobiology.