Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Super resolution microscopy reveals cytoskeleton organisation and forces at play in cell adhesion

27 May 2021

Foot Down

Dotted around on the inner surface of our cells, focal adhesions act like tiny 'feet', but how they sense the floor is still a little mysterious. In this mammalian cell, scientists use their own sensors to snoop on what’s going on using super-resolution microscopy. One sensor sticks to a molecule called integrin on the underside of the cell, stretching as it wriggles to release tiny bursts of light (red dots). The speckled pattern suggests clusters of integrin may determine where focal adhesions form inside the cell – seen as clusters of tiny bone-like actin filaments in the cell’s cytoskeleton (yellow showing the filaments closest to the underlying surface, blue furthest away). Researchers might aim to exploit this mechanical link between neighbouring molecules inside and outside cells to guide their movement in health and disease.

Written by John Ankers

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