By Robin Smith

If baker’s yeast could take over the world, the bread leavener’s world domination might look like this time-lapse movie produced by a team led by Duke biologist Nicolas Buchler:

Their report in the Nov. 5, 2014, issue of the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell shows time-lapse images of yeast cells under a microscope as one cell grows and divides into two, and two into four, and so on.

To watch the budding yeasts in action, the researchers inserted a gene for an enzyme that gives fireflies their characteristic yellow light into the yeasts’ DNA.

It normally takes one yeast cell about 90 minutes to grow and divide into two new cells. But in the time-lapse movie, the process is compressed into a few seconds.

The yellow dots show genes being turned on and off in the nucleus of each cell.

The approach allows scientists to track the activation and deactivation of genes over a tiny cell’s fast life cycle more accurately than standard labeling techniques using other glowing proteins, the researchers say.

CITATION: “Measuring fast gene dynamics in single cells with timelapse luminescence microscopy,” Mazo-Vargas, A., Park, H., Aydin, M. and N. Buchler. Molecular Biology of the Cell, November 5, 2014.