Real-Time Growth Kinetics Analysis of Macromolecular Assemblies in Cells with Single Molecule Resolution

J Phys Chem A. 2023 Apr 20;127(15):3490-3496. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpca.3c00368. Epub 2023 Apr 6.


Single molecule fluorescence microscopy has the unique advantage to provide real-time information on the spatiotemporal assembly of individual protein complexes in cellular membranes. This includes the assembly of proteins into oligomer species of numerous copy numbers. However, there is a need for improved tracing analysis of the real-time growth kinetics of these assemblies in cells with single molecule resolution. Here, we present an automated analysis software to accurately measure the real-time kinetics of assembly of individual high-order oligomer complexes. Our software comes with a simple Graphical User Interface (GUI), is available as a source code and an executable, and can analyze a full data set of several hundred to thousand molecules in less than 2 minutes. Importantly, this software is suitable for the analysis of intracellular protein oligomers, whose stoichiometry is usually more difficult to quantify due to variability in signal detection in the different areas of the cell. We validated our method with simulated ground-truth data and time-lapse images of diffraction-limited oligomeric assemblies of BAX and BAK proteins on mitochondria of cells undergoing apoptosis. Our approach provides the broad community of biologists with a fast, user-friendly tool to trace the compositional evolution of macromolecular assemblies, and potentially model their growth for a deeper understanding of the structural and biophysical mechanisms underlying their functions.

MeSH terms

  • Kinetics
  • Software*