Revolutionary high-performance microscopy for the Göttingen Cluster of Excellence MBExC

The German Research Foundation and the State of Lower Saxony are funding the acquisition of an instrumentation set for cryo-electron microscopy/tomography for UMG professor Rubén Fernández-Busnadiego at the Cluster of Excellence MBExC. The instruments were delivered in April and set up in premises of the Faculty of Physics at the University of Göttingen. Procurement and reconstruction were funded with a total of around 7.3 million euros.

(mbexc/umg/pug) Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) enables research at the Göttingen Cluster of Excellence “Multiscale Bioimaging: from molecular machines to networks of excitable cells” (MBExC) to image the smallest structures in living cells unaltered and close to their native state. “With this technology, we will bring a new scientific dimension to the University of Göttingen”, says Ruben Fernández-Busnadiego. He is considered an internationally recognized expert in cryo-EM and cryo-ET. To bridge the scales between structural and cell biology, Rubén Fernández-Busnadiego has been appointed Professor of Structural Cell Biology at the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) in 2019 within the MBExC. He was in charge of the application for the instrumentation for high-performance microscopy and is now head of the cryo-electron microscopy laboratory.

Already last year, Rubén Fernández-Busnadiego and structural biologist Eri Sakata, newly-appointed MBExC research group leader at the Institute of Auditory Neuroscience, UMG, initiated the application for the high-performance microscopy instrumentation in cooperation with researchers from the university and UMG. In December 2020, the German Research Foundation (DFG) approved the investment funds as part of the Major Research Instrumentation program under Article 91b of the German Basic Law. The total costs of around 7.3 million euros for the acquisition and the necessary reconstruction of the premises were covered by the federal government and the state of Lower Saxony.

“This success strengthens Göttingen as a location for biomedical cryo-electron microscopy. With multiscale imaging, we are able to cross the boundary between structural and cell biology”, says Tobias Moser, Director of the Institute of Auditory Neuroscience, UMG, and spokesperson of the Cluster of Excellence MBExC.

Not least with its approval, the Cluster of Excellence “Multiscale Bioimaging: from molecular machines to networks of excitable cells” (MBExC), the Göttingen Campus was recognized as an internationally leading center for biological imaging.

Modern imaging techniques such as microscopy also at the nanoscale, NanoSIMS, magnetic resonance imaging as well as imaging mass spectrometry are already well established at the the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the University of Göttingen.

The instrumentation includes a tomography-capable cryo-electron microscope, a cryo-focused ion beam/scanning electron microscope, and a cryo-light microscope. An additional device for vitrifying biological samples, enables Fernández-Busnadiego and colleagues to “snap-freeze” biological samples to a glassy state (vitrification). This allows them to image sensitive structures at molecular resolution in a near-native state, and to reveal the intricate details of the cellular architecture of neurons both in a healthy state and in the context of neurodegenerative diseases.

The recently delivered instrumentation is set up and operated in the Faculty of Physics of the University of Göttingen in specially equipped premises of the highest technical standard. The financial support for the necessary modifications and extensions, was granted by the state of Lower Saxony from the Niedersächsisches Vorab. The UMG and the University of Göttingen provide equal shares of substantial funding for the operating and maintenance costs of the microscopes to ensure the sustainability of the investment. The cryo-EM/ET projects are supported by the MBExC-funded application specialist, Dr. Tat Cheng, Institute for Neuropathology, UMG and technical staff. Collaborating researchers at University Medical Center Göttingen and the University of Göttingen and associated networks, such as the Collaborative Research Centers 803, 860, 889, 1002, 1190, and 1286, will also benefit from these technologies.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Cryo-electron microscopy

Cryo-electron microscopy is one of the most powerful technologies for high-end structural analysis of natural and synthetic single particles, for the development of which the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded in 2017. It allows not only the analysis of atomic structures in isolated macromolecules and complexes, but even their observation in their natural context in living cells. This is important for understanding how cellular functional units work and are regulated in cells, and how their malfunction leads to diseases.



about the Institute of Neuropathology

University Medical Center Göttingen, Georg-August-Universität
Institute of Neuropathology
Prof. Dr. Rubén Fernández-Busnadiego
Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 11
Phone: 0551-39-60745

Cluster of Excellence Multiscale Bioimaging (MBExC)
Dr. Heike Conrad (Communication)
Phone: 0551-39-61305

Please find the pdf of the press release in English here
and the German press release here.