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A galinstan expansion femtosyringe for microinjection of eukaryotic organelles and prokaryotes


A galinstan expansion femtosyringe enables femtoliter to attoliter samples to be introduced into prokaryotes and subcellular compartments of eukaryotes. The method uses heat-induced expansion of galinstan (a liquid metal alloy of gallium, indium, and tin) within a glass syringe to expel samples through a tip diameter of about 0.1 μm. The narrow tip inflicts less damage than conventional capillaries, and the heat-induced expansion of the galinstan allows fine control over the rate of injection. We demonstrate injection of Lucifer Yellow and Lucifer Yellow–dextran conjugates into cyanobacteria, and into nuclei and chloroplasts of higher organisms. Injection of a plasmid containing the bla gene into the cyanobacterium Phormidium laminosum resulted in transformed ampicillin-resistant cultures. Green fluorescent protein was expressed in attached leaves of tobacco and Vicia faba following injection of DNA cantaining its gene into individual chloroplasts.

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Figure 1: Scanning electron microscope images showing (A) a conventional microelectrode tip (diameter ~0.7 μm) and (B) a GEF tip (diameter ~0.1 μm).
Figure 2: Confocal laser scanning microscope images of Lucifer Yellow injected into cells and organelles.
Figure 3: GFP expression in chloroplasts following GEF injection of DNA.
Figure 4: (A) Microinjection of Lucifer Yellow (shown in green) into a single chloroplast of a Vicia faba mesophyll cell.


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We extend our thanks to Dr. Hubert Felle (University of Giessen, Germany), Dr. Winfried Peters (University of Frankfurt, Germany), and Dr. Walter Schröder (Nuclear Research Centre, Juelich, Germany), for helpful technical discussions, Dr. Ursula Richter (University of Giessen, Germany) and the ZBB (University of Giessen) for scanning electron microscope imaging of the pipette tips, Dr. Wolfgang Clauβ (University of Giessen) for Xenopus distal kidney tubule A6 cell cultures, and the Geraberger Thermometer Werke GmbH for a supply of galinstan for the first tests. We also thank Dr. Chris Howe (Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, UK) for supplying P. laminosum. We thank the EU for Grant BIO4 CT972245 as part of the Plasmonet consortium for funding.

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Knoblauch, M., Hibberd, J., Gray, J. et al. A galinstan expansion femtosyringe for microinjection of eukaryotic organelles and prokaryotes. Nat Biotechnol 17, 906–909 (1999).

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