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Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2013 Sep 4;4:114. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2013.00114.

Imaging large cohorts of single ion channels and their activity.

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Edinburgh Super-Resolution Imaging Consortium (ESRIC), Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering, School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University , Edinburgh , UK.


As calcium is the most important signaling molecule in neurons and secretory cells, amongst many other cell types, it follows that an understanding of calcium channels and their regulation of exocytosis is of vital importance. Calcium imaging using calcium dyes such as Fluo3, or FRET-based dyes that have been used widely has provided invaluable information, which combined with modeling has estimated the subtypes of channels responsible for triggering the exocytotic machinery as well as inferences about the relative distances away from vesicle fusion sites these molecules adopt. Importantly, new super-resolution microscopy techniques, combined with novel Ca(2+) indicators and imaginative imaging approaches can now define directly the nano-scale locations of very large cohorts of single channel molecules in relation to single vesicles. With combinations of these techniques the activity of individual channels can be visualized and quantified using novel Ca(2+) indicators. Fluorescently labeled specific channel toxins can also be used to localize endogenous assembled channel tetramers. Fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy and other single-photon-resolution spectroscopic approaches offer the possibility to quantify protein-protein interactions between populations of channels and the SNARE protein machinery for the first time. Together with simultaneous electrophysiology, this battery of quantitative imaging techniques has the potential to provide unprecedented detail describing the locations, dynamic behaviors, interactions, and conductance activities of many thousands of channel molecules and vesicles in living cells.


PALM; STED; TIRFM; imaging; ion channel; microscopy; storm; super-resolution

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