David S. Goodsell is an Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at the Scripps Research Institute. His research uses computer graphics and simulation to explore structure/function relationships in key biological systems. He is also an artist, using ink and watercolor painting to represent cells and their compartments: anything from a bacterium to the Golgi apparatus of a eukaryotic cell, nerve synapses or even viral particles. He was the winner of the Wellcome Image Awards 2016.

Six paintings were created for the “Art of Systems Biology and Nanoscience,” organized  in 2014 by the University of New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory at 333 Montezuma Arts in Santa Fe. The paintings capture different aspects of the active transport of molecules in and out of living cells. Membrane-enclosed vesicles are widely used as the containers for shipping molecules, and a diverse collection of dedicated molecular machines provide the motors for moving them and ensure that deliveries are made at the proper time and place.

Each painting, rendered in watercolor and ink, simulates a cross section through a cell, showing the membranes, proteins, and nucleic acids drawn at a consistent magnification of 2,000,000X.  The spaces between the molecules are filled with many small molecules and water, which are not shown. The illustrations are based on experimental data from a variety of sources, including molecular structures from x-ray crystallography, proteomic information, and cellular ultrastructure from electron microscopy.

David Goodsell: Nanotransport Synapse

David Goodsell: Nanotransport: Synapse

Nanotransport: Synapse

Nerve cells communicate with their neighbors by releasing small neurotransmitter molecules, shown here in yellow. The neurotransmitters are stored in membrane-bound vesicles, which fuse with the nerve cell membrane and release the neurotransmitters into the narrow cleft between cells. The signal is received by receptor molecules (in green) on the neighboring cell membrane. A complex infrastructure of proteins in both cells (shown in blues) makes sure that everything is in the right place.

David Goodsell: Nanotransport_Virus

David Goodsell: Nanotransport: Virus

Nanotransport: Virus

Rhinovirus, one of the viruses that cause the common cold, is captured in the process of infection. Two viruses are shown at the top in red. The lower virus has attached to receptors on the cell surface (green) and is injecting its genome (pink snake-shaped molecule). Inside the cell, ribosomes (magenta) are translating the viral genome into viral proteins, which will ultimately hijack the cell to create new viruses.

David Goodsell: Nanotransport Vesicle

David Goodsell: Nanotransport: Vesicle

Nanotransport: Vesicle

Molecules are transported inside cells in membrane-enclosed vesicles, such as the one shown here at the top. This vesicle includes a load of antibodies (in yellow) that is being delivered to the surface of this white blood cell, for release into the bloodstream. The vesicle is pulled along long microtubules (extending diagonally through the picture) by kinesin motors.

David Goodsell: Nanotransport: LDL

David Goodsell: Nanotransport: LDL

Nanotransport: LDL

Fats are transported through the blood in large containers, such at the low density lipoproteins (LDL) shown here at the top. They are bound to receptors on the cell surface (green) and pulled into the cell in coated vesicles surrounded by clathrin (three-armed protein in blue).

David Goodsell: Nanotransport: Insulin

David Goodsell: Nanotransport: Insulin

Nanotransport: Insulin

Insulin (white egg-shaped molecule at upper right) binds to receptors on cell surfaces (in green) and has many effects that modify the metabolism of glucose. Here, a vesicle with glucose transporters has fused to the cell surface, increasing the flow of glucose into the cell.

David Goodsell: Nanotransport: Glucacon

David Goodsell: Nanotransport: Glucacon

Nanotransport: Glucagon

Hormones like glucagon (small yellow molecules) are stored in large vesicles, and released when the cell receives the appropriate trigger. The V-shaped molecule at upper left is a myosin that delivers the vesicle to the cell surface. The large green molecules in the vesicles are chromogranins that assist in the storage and release of the hormone.


More information on my paintings is available at my WWW site:

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