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J Histochem Cytochem. 2003 Jan;51(1):19-29.

Simultaneous imaging and functional assessment of cytoskeletal protein connections in passively loaded single muscle cells.

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Department of Bioengineering, Biomedical Sciences Graduate Group, University of California and Veterans Administration Medical Centers, San Diego, California 92161, USA.


We describe a novel system that permits simultaneous confocal imaging of protein interactions and measurement of cell mechanical properties during passive loading. A mechanical apparatus was designed to replace the stage of a confocal microscope, enabling cell manipulation, force transduction, and imaging. In addition, image processing algorithms were developed to quantify the degree of connectivity between subcellular structures. Using this system, we examined the interactions among three cellular structures thought to be linked by the muscle's intermediate filament system: Z-disks, nuclei, and the costamere protein complexes located at the muscle cell surface. Fast Fourier transforms (FFTs) and autocorrelations (ACs) were implemented to quantify image periodicity and relative phase shifts among structures. We demonstrated in sample wild-type muscle cells that there was significant connectivity among Z-disks in the same fiber at various sarcomere lengths, as well as between Z-disks and the costamere complexes. This approach can be applied to any cell system in which structural periodicity and mechanical connectivity are of interest.

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