Recent Developments in High Spatial-Temporal Image-Based Tracking of Proteins in Subcellular Spatial Proteomics Applications

Author(s): Wenfa Ng

Dawn of the omics revolution in biological sciences meant that we seek to understand more and in greater detail the molecular constituents of cells and biological systems. While we have gained significant insights from conventional omics tools, we now seek to understand the spatial dimensions of the data where subcellular localisation may impact on cellular physiology and phenotype. This review paper seeks to address current questions in the new field of image-based spatial proteomics as well as outline future challenges of the field. At first glance, spatial proteomics offers enormous potential to expand our understanding of different cell types in different disease and cell states. But limitations in types of fluorophores and issues with spectral overlap significantly hampers the practical implementation of the technique. On the other hand, while we have super-resolution microscopy techniques such as STED, PALM and STORM able to achieve 10 to 20 nm spatial resolution in single molecule localisation, problems with slow image acquisition limits high temporal resolution tracking of multiple protein targets in live cell imaging. Hence, the field of spatial proteomics is a mix of promises and challenges where we could image, in multi-colour, upwards of 10 well-chosen proteins that could inform on the molecular mechanisms of selected biological processes, but, at present, the method could not tackle larger scale questions. In essence, current implementation of image-based spatial proteomics is useful, but it is unable to fulfil the mission of large-scale projects such as the Human Protein Atlas or Human Cell Atlas. Future challenges in the field includes the development of more fluorophores (especially photo switchable and photoactivable ones) for single molecule localisation microscopy, as well as seeking to improve temporal resolutions to the sub-millisecond range.

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