Imaging ONEWORLD - 'New single molecule methods to study protein dynamics on membranes' - Professor Dr Petra Schwille

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

The meeting will begin at 1pm BST.

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.


  • Prof. Dr Petra Schwille

    Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich, Germany
    Petra Schwille is Director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich, Germany, and Honorary Professor at the LMU Munich. She studied physics and philosophy in Stuttgart and Göttingen, and graduated 1993 with Diploma in Physics at the Georg August University, Göttingen. She obtained her Ph.D. in 1996 from the TU Braunschweig, with a thesis on Fluorescence (Cross-)Correlation Spectroscopy, performed at the MPI for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen. After a postdoctoral stay at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, she returned to the MPI Göttingen as a research group leader, financed by the BMBF Biofuture grant, in 1999. In 2002, she accepted a Chair of Biophysics at the newly established BIOTEC center of the TU Dresden. Since 2012, she is heading the department Cellular and Molecular Biophysics at the MPI of Biochemistry. Her scientific interests range from single molecule biophysics to the synthetic biology of reconstituted systems. Her work has been awarded with several prestigious prizes, among them the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation in 2010, the Braunschweig Research Prize in 2011, the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art in 2018, and the Carl Zeiss Lecture Prize 2020. She is member of the German National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina), the National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech), the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanties (BBAW), and the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), as well as Honorary Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society (2015) and the Biophysical Society (2017).

Speaker's Abstract

The constitutive role of membranes for cellular life cannot be overestimated. Besides forming the dynamic boundaries of cells and organelles, they are home to about a third of all cellular proteins, many of which are however only peripheral. Their spontaneous interactions with or transient binding to membranes are, in spite of their tremendous importance for the life sciences, still a “blind spot” in biomolecular analytics. In the past years, my lab has developed highly potent methods to study the binding and dissociation of single molecules to and from membranes in equilibrium. One branch of methods is based on localization-based fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy, analyzing the mean on-off cycle of molecules entering and leaving the evanescent field of a TIR-illuminated membrane surface. Another recently developed method expands label-free mass photometry to membranes. It does not only enable us to track single molecules on membranes label-free, but also to determine the mass growth and shrinkage of molecular assemblies, key for understanding the cooperative self-assembly and molecular feedback mechanisms at the basis of self-organizing biological systems, such as protein pattern formation.