Live Cell Imaging

Live cell imaging captures the spatial and temporal dynamics of subcellular components and processes from single molecules to single cells in culture with minimal disruption to the cell. Scientists can use long-term time-lapse movies to observe cellular interactions between molecular components. The development of high-resolution microscopes, cameras and fluorescent sensors has expanded the applicability of this method. NIGMS supports research that applies this imaging modality to cell biology questions in areas including monitoring gene expression, the stages of mitosis, the control of mRNA transport, changes in nuclear architecture and membranes during apoptosis and the coordinated cycle of adhesion and de-adhesion during cell migration. Here are a few additional examples.

Microtubule Dynamics in Real Time

Cytoplasmic linker protein (CLIP)-170 

Cytoplasmic linker protein (CLIP)-170 is a microtubule plus-end-tracking protein that regulates microtubule dynamics and links microtubule ends to different intracellular structures. In this movie, the gene for CLIP-170 has been fused with green florescent protein (GFP). When the protein is expressed in cells, the activities can be monitored in real time. Here, you can see CLIP-170 streaming towards the edges of the cell. Credit: Gary Borisy, Marine Biology Laboratory.

Abnormal Mitosis and the Spindle Checkpoint in Action

This video shows an instance of abnormal mitosis where chromosomes are late to align. 

This video shows an instance of abnormal mitosis where chromosomes are late to align. It demonstrates the spindle checkpoint in action: Just one unaligned chromosome can delay anaphase, a stage when chromosomes segregate to the two ends of the cell. As shown in the movie, cell division is complete once the lagging chromosome is aligned. This work used S3 tissue cultured cells from Xenopus laevis, African clawed frog. Credit: John Daum and Gary Gorbsky, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

Imaging Focal Adhesion Sites

This movie shows focal adhesions assembling and disassembling 

Focal adhesions are dynamic structures that cells use to attach to surfaces. They assemble and disassemble continuously. This movie shows this process happening in cells collectively during a zipping process of dorsal closure in a Drosophila embryo. Dorsal closure is a critical process for proper development of an organism. The Drosophila embryo was imaged using spinning disc confocal microscopy and a 100x lens. Focal adhesions are made visible with a GFP fusion protein. Credit: U. Serdar Tulu, Duke University.