Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Imaging Grant for Marion Jasnin

Cryo-EMcapsulins to revolutionize bioimaging under cryogenic conditions

Pioneer Campus PI, Marion Jasnin and Group Leader Felix Sigmund within Gil Westmeyer's Chair at TUM’s Department of Bioscience/Helmholtz Munich’s Institute for Synthetic Biomedicinehave been awarded a prestigious grant under the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)’s call "Cryo-CLEM labels". This grant, part of CZI's Imaging program, aims to advance the development of intracellular imaging probes for cryo-correlative light and electron microscopy (cryo-CLEM) to gain a deeper mechanistic understanding of biological systems.

Background. EMcapsulins are a suite of genetically encodable and geometrically multiplexable labels for electron microscopy (EM) based on engineered microbial nano-compartments. These labels can be non-toxically expressed in various complex eukaryotic cell systems, including the mouse brain, where they serve as genetic markers for genetically defined cellular subpopulations or molecular targets in various EM imaging modalities. While these EMcapsulins, optimized for room temperature EM methods with heavy metal staining reagents, represent a significant advance in genetically encoded EM labels, the project recognizes and addresses the need for further optimization in terms of their cryo-CLEM contrast to unlock their full potential for cryo-CLEM applications.

Goal. Leveraging their joint expertise in protein engineering and cutting-edge cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET), the teams led by Felix and Marion aim to provide an unprecedented, fully genetic solution for cryo-CLEM labels. These labels have the potential to target any protein of interest minimally invasively, offering a comprehensive approach to gaining a mechanistic understanding of biological functions across scales.

The grant for this innovative one-year project is set at € 165,000. The collaborative efforts of Marion Jasnin and Felix Sigmund underline Pioneer Campus's commitment to building bridges between departments and disciplines, advancing cutting-edge research, and contributing to the evolution of the biological imaging landscape.