LabVIEW-operated novel nanoliter osmometer for ice binding protein investigations.

Ido Braslavsky*, Ran Drori

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Ice-binding proteins (IBPs), including antifreeze proteins, ice structuring proteins, thermal hysteresis proteins, and ice recrystallization inhibition proteins, are found in cold-adapted organisms and protect them from freeze injuries by interacting with ice crystals. IBPs are found in a variety of organism, including fish(1), plants(2, 3), arthropods(4, 5), fungi(6), and bacteria(7). IBPs adsorb to the surfaces of ice crystals and prevent water molecules from joining the ice lattice at the IBP adsorption location. Ice that grows on the crystal surface between the adsorbed IBPs develops a high curvature that lowers the temperature at which the ice crystals grow, a phenomenon referred to as the Gibbs-Thomson effect. This depression creates a gap (thermal hysteresis, TH) between the melting point and the nonequilibrium freezing point, within which ice growth is arrested(8-10), see Figure 1. One of the main tools used in IBP research is the nanoliter osmometer, which facilitates measurements of the TH activities of IBP solutions. Nanoliter osmometers, such as the Clifton instrument (Clifton Technical Physics, Hartford, NY,) and Otago instrument (Otago Osmometers, Dunedin, New Zealand), were designed to measure the osmolarity of a solution by measuring the melting point depression of droplets with nanoliter volumes. These devices were used to measure the osmolarities of biological samples, such as tears(11), and were found to be useful in IBP research. Manual control over these nanoliter osmometers limited the experimental possibilities. Temperature rate changes could not be controlled reliably, the temperature range of the Clifton instrument was limited to 4,000 mOsmol (about -7.5 °C), and temperature recordings as a function of time were not an available option for these instruments. We designed a custom-made computer-controlled nanoliter osmometer system using a LabVIEW platform (National Instruments). The cold stage, described previously(9, 10), contains a metal block through which water circulates, thereby functioning as a heat sink, see Figure 2. Attached to this block are thermoelectric coolers that may be driven using a commercial temperature controller that can be controlled via LabVIEW modules, see Figure 3. Further details are provided below. The major advantage of this system is its sensitive temperature control, see Figure 4. Automated temperature control permits the coordination of a fixed temperature ramp with a video microscopy output containing additional experimental details. To study the time dependence of the TH activity, we tested a 58 kDa hyperactive IBP from the Antarctic bacterium Marinomonas primoryensis (MpIBP)(12). This protein was tagged with enhanced green fluorescence proteins (eGFP) in a construct developed by Peter Davies' group (Queens University)(10). We showed that the temperature change profile affected the TH activity. Excellent control over the temperature profile in these experiments significantly improved the TH measurements. The nanoliter osmometer additionally allowed us to test the recrystallization inhibition of IBPs(5, 13). In general, recrystallization is a phenomenon in which large crystals grow larger at the expense of small crystals. IBPs efficiently inhibit recrystallization, even at low concentrations(14, 15). We used our LabVIEW-controlled osmometer to quantitatively follow the recrystallization of ice and to enforce a constant ice fraction using simultaneous real-time video analysis of the images and temperature feedback from the sample chamber(13). The real-time calculations offer additional control options during an experimental procedure. A stage for an inverted microscope was developed to accommodate temperature-controlled microfluidic devices, which will be described elsewhere(16). The Cold Stage System The cold stage assembly (Figure 2) consists of a set of thermoelectric coolers that cool a copper plate. Heat is removed from the stage by flowing cold water through a closed compartment under the thermoelectric coolers. A 4 mm diameter hole in the middle of the copper plate serves as a viewing window. A 1 mm diameter in-plane hole was drilled to fit the thermistor. A custom-made copper disc (7 mm in diameter) with several holes (500 μm in diameter) was placed on the copper plate and aligned with the viewing window. Air was pumped at a flow rate of 35 ml/sec and dried using Drierite (W.A. Hammond). The dry air was used to ensure a dry environment at the cooling stage. The stage was connected via a 9 pin connection outlet to a temperature controller (Model 3040 or 3150, Newport Corporation, Irvine, California, US). The temperature controller was connected via a cable to a computer GPIB-PCI card (National instruments, Austin, Texas, USA).

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)e4189
JournalUnknown Journal
Issue number72
StatePublished - 2013


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