Imaging ONEWORLD - 'How do you build a wall? Using and developing advanced live cell fluorescence microscopy to understand how bacteria divide'

19 April 2021


RMS Hosted Event

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This week will feature Seamus Holden from Newcastle University.

Scientific Organisers: Stefanie Reichelt, Alex Sossick, Nick Barry, Alessandro Esposito and Kirti Prakash

The meeting will begin at 13:00BST.

As part of the 'Imaging ONEWORLD' series, the focus of these lectures is on microscopy and image analysis methods and how to apply these to your research. Almost all aspects of imaging such as sample preparation, labelling strategies, experimental workflows, ‘how-to’ image and analyse, as well as facilitating collaborations and inspiring new scientific ideas will be covered. Speakers will be available for questions and answers. The organisers, CRUK CI core facility staff, Gurdon Institute, MRC-LMB, MRC Cancer Unit and NPL will be able to continue the discussion and provide advice on your imaging projects.


  • Seamus Holden

    Newcastle University
    Dr Séamus Holden works at the interface of single molecule microscopy, biophysics and bacteriology. Séamus studied Physics at Oxford University, followed by a DPhil in single molecule biophysics in the laboratory of Professor Achilles Kapanidis at Oxford, where he developed the DAOSTORM algorithm, the first multi-emitter fitting algorithm for STORM/ PALM super-resolution microscopy. He did a post-doc in the laboratory of Professor Suliana Manley at EPFL, where he developed the first high throughput super-resolution microscope, and used it to study how the cytoskeleton protein FtsZ guides bacterial cell division. In 2015, he started his own lab at the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology, Newcastle University. The Holden lab work to understand how nanoscale proteins build complex microscale structures, using bacterial cell wall remodelling as a primary model system. At the same time they develop new, open source microscopy methods for advanced live cell fluorescence microscopy. In 2017 Séamus was awarded a Wellcome Trust & Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellowship to study physical principles of bacterial cell division and in 2020 he was awarded the British Biophysical Society Louise Johnson Early Career Award.


In bacterial cell division, a nanoscale cell division machinery spontaneously builds a micron scale crosswall or septum at the middle of the bacterial cell wall. The complexity of this challenge is more obvious if we imagine rescaling cell division proteins to human size, and then try to figure out how they can build a septum the size of the world’s tallest building.  Furthermore, due to the small size of bacteria this process takes place almost at the diffraction limit of light microscopy, making observation of bacterial division protein dynamics an intense technical challenge.

I will talk about our efforts to use high resolution live cell microscopy to uncover physical principles by which the model bacterium Bacillus subtilis divides. In particular I will discuss our advances in understanding why the cytoskeleton protein and ancestral tubulin homologue FtsZ is so important for septum building. I will discuss the method development which has supported this work, including Vertical Cell Imaging by Nanostructured Immobilization (VerCINI), a high resolution bacterial imaging method combining microfluidics, quantitative image analysis and nanofabrication-enabled control of cell orientation. I will also introduce the LifeHack, our new open source single molecule microscope for live cell imaging.


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