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Video provides behind-the-scenes look at unusual transport protein

For science geeks out there, this video offers a glimpse of a key protein tasked with transporting vitamin A into cells, and provides a unique behind-the-scenes look at how researchers captured the image itself.

The scientists used electron microscopy and a high-speed camera to gather tens of thousands of images of the cell membrane protein, called STRA6. With these images, they created a three-dimensional model of the protein. Their procedure is described in this Columbia University Medical Center news release.

STRA6 is thought to be unusual in its structure, as it does not transport vitamin A through a channel – the method used by most other membrane proteins. Instead, it has side openings that send vitamin A into the cell membrane – so far, it is thought that this is to control the amount of vitamin A each cell contains.

Vitamin A — which is found in a variety of foods including sweet potatoes and spinach — is crucial for vision, cell growth, and immunity, among other processes. Regulation of the amount of vitamin A in a cell is imperative, however, as an excess can be toxic.

Previously: Mapping the human embryo, cell by cellWhen proteins go bad: Quality control inside the cells and Decoding proteins using your very own super computer
Video courtesy of Columbia University Medical Center

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