Optically Resolving Individual Microtubules in Live Axons

Harsha V. Mudrakola, Kai Zhang, Bianxiao Cui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Microtubules are essential cytoskeletal tracks for cargo transportation in axons and also serve as the primary structural scaffold of neurons. Structural assembly, stability, and dynamics of axonal microtubules are of great interest for understanding neuronal functions and pathologies. However, microtubules are so densely packed in axons that their separations are well below the diffraction limit of light, which precludes using optical microscopy for live-cell studies. Here, we present a single-molecule imaging method capable of resolving individual microtubules in live axons. In our method, unlabeled microtubules are revealed by following individual axonal cargos that travel along them. We resolved more than six microtubules in a 1 μm diameter axon by real-time tracking of endosomes containing quantum dots. Our live-cell study also provided direct evidence that endosomes switch between microtubules while traveling along axons, which has been proposed to be the primary means for axonal cargos to effectively navigate through the crowded axoplasmic environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1433-1441
Number of pages9
JournalStructure
Volume17
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 11 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • CELLBIO
  • PROTEINS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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