Visualizing membrane nanotubes
In one study of human cancer cells, live cell light sheet microscopy was used to visualize membrane nanotubes. These structures provide a means of communication between cells using soluble messengers such as in endocrine, paracrine, or exosome signaling.
These nanotubes have also been investigated for a possible role in cancer disease progression and resistance to therapies. However, lack of a marker or imaging methodology has prevented these structures from being studied in intact live tissues.
The researchers used LLSM to create a very thin sheet of light, and step it through the specimen rapidly to acquire a three-dimensional image. They used a human breast cancer cell line expressing a bright fluorescent genetically encoded GFP membrane marker.
The results showed that the cells form multiple nanotubes in culture to propagate Ca2+ signals between cells and traffic GFP tagged membrane aggregates.