A new paper by Rice University scientists details the mechanical compression that quenches fluorescence in synthetic ArcLight proteins used to track signaling between neurons. The native protein on the left, with anchor residues 2.5 nanometers apart, fluoresces when triggered by light at the right frequency. But fluorescence shuts down when the protein is compressed, which brings the anchors a nanometer closer. The researchers found a link between the mechanism and an electrical signal in the protein that can be used as a marker when simulating new fluorescent proteins with computer models.

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