Like our body every cell has a skeleton that provides it with a shape, confers rigidity and protects its fragile inner workings. The cytoskeleton is built of long protein filaments that assemble into networks whose overall architecture and fine detail can only be revealed with high resolution electron microscopy images. Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the University of Colorado have now obtained the first 3D visualization of a complete eukaryotic cell at a resolution high enough to resolve the cytoskeleton's precise architectural plan in fission yeast. The image of this unicellular organism will be published in this week's issue of the journal Developmental Cell and reveals remarkable insights into the fine structure of the cytoskeleton as well as its interactions with other parts of the cell.
A key component of the cytoskeleton are long, tube-like filaments called microtubules. They are dynamic structures built of constantly growing and shrinking rows of elementary proteins called tubulins. To increase their rigidity microtubules associate in bundles and interact with stabilizing proteins in complex networks, which are essential for many cellular processes such as polar growth.
"To really understand the architecture of the cytoskeleton you have to see the entire cell in three dimensions," says Claude Antony, whose team carried out the research at EMBL, "but at the same time you need a very good resolution to be able to investigate its structural details. It is impossible to obtain such detailed images of a eukaryotic cell with normal microscopes."
To bridge the gap between global overview and structural detail Antony's team collaborated with yeast and electron microscopy expert Richard McIntosh at the University of Colorado. Using a technique called electron tomography, Johanna Hg, PhD student in Antony's lab, took pictures of sequential sections of a yeast cell from many different angles through an electron mi
Contact: Anna-Lynn Wegener
European Molecular Biology Laboratory