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Chem Biol. 2003 Feb;10(2):123-30.

Selective chemical treatment of cellular microdomains using multiple laminar streams.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, 12 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


There are many experiments in which it would be useful to treat a part of the surface or interior of a cell with a biochemical reagent. It is difficult, however, to achieve subcellular specificity, because small molecules diffuse distances equal to the extent of the cell in seconds. This paper demonstrates experimentally, and analyzes theoretically, the use of multiple laminar fluid streams in microfluidic channels to deliver reagents to, and remove them from, cells with subcellular spatial selectivity. The technique made it possible to label different subpopulations of mitochondria fluorescently, to disrupt selected regions of the cytoskeleton chemically, to dislodge limited areas of cell-substrate adhesions enzymatically, and to observe microcompartmental endocytosis within individual cells. This technique does not require microinjection or immobilization of reagents onto nondiffusive objects; it opens a new window into cell biology.

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