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Note: Research in this publication was not performed at Janelia.
Near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM) has been used to generate high resolution flourescence images of cytoskeletal actin within fixed mouse fibroblast cells. Comparison with other microscopic methods indicates a transverse resolution well beyond that of confocal microscopy, and contrast far more revealing than in force microscopy. Effects unique to the near field are shown to be involved in the excitation of flourescence, yet the resulting images remain readily interpretable. As an initial demonstration of its utility, the technique is used to analyze the actin-based cytoskeletal structure between stress fibers and in cellular protrusions formed in the process of wound healing.
Commentary: The first superresolution fluorescence imaging of a biological system: the actin cytoskeleton in fixed, cultured fibroblast cells. This work strongly influenced me in two ways. First, calculations based on the signal-to-noise-ratio in images of single actin filaments in the paper suggested that single molecule imaging might be feasible. This was soon proven to be the case (see above). Second, the limitations of exogenous labeling for superresolution microscopy were revealed: samples which appeared correctly stained by conventional microscopy often exhibited sketchy, punctuate labeling of actin filaments as well as substantial non-specific background in the corresponding near field images. Indeed, it was the advent of GFP, with its promise of dense labeling and perfect specificity, that lured me back to superresolution microscopy when I first heard of it in 2003.