April 24, 2014

I’m still waiting for my miniaturizing spaceship* so I can dive into a cell with my dog and ride in the lamella of a crawling cell. Until then, I will gladly enjoy images like today’s, from the Lippincott-Schwartz lab.

A cell’s shape can change for many reasons, including crawling, tissue regeneration, and cancer progression. Cell shape is dynamic, relying on temporal and spatial coordination of several processes. The three-dimensional nature of cell shape, however, presents a challenge for microscopists. By using structured illumination microscopy (SIM), Burnette and colleagues created images of the three-dimensional organization of actin filaments. From these 3D superresolution analyses in crawling cells, Burnette and colleagues found a contractile network of actin filaments at the top of a crawling cell, organized like muscle sarcomeres. Their model of balanced contraction and adhesion helps to guide further investigations of cell shape changes in healthy and diseased tissue. The image above shows actin filaments at color-coded heights within a crawling cell. The closed arrow points to actin at the top of the cell.

*My birthday is next month, if anyone is wondering about gift ideas.  

Burnette, D., Shao, L., Ott, C., Pasapera, A., Fischer, R., Baird, M., Der Loughian, C., Delanoe-Ayari, H., Paszek, M., Davidson, M., Betzig, E., & Lippincott-Schwartz, J. (2014). A contractile and counterbalancing adhesion system controls the 3D shape of crawling cells originally published in the Journal of Cell Biology, 205 (1), 83-96 DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201311104

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