Getting a closer look at the 'highways' within cells that transport molecules
Just like a postal service relies on roads and trucks to collect and deliver letters and packages, the cells in our bodies have a complex transport network that moves molecules wherever they need to go. Nowhere is this more challenging than in nerve cells, which are covered with long spindly branches known as dendrites. Within each dendrite are ‘roads’ made of bundles of thin microtubules, like the ones in these images of a rat nerve cell dendrite. The ‘trucks’ are motor proteins, travelling along the microtubule highways as they collect and deliver their molecular cargo. Microtubules can be chemically modified in different ways, which affects how stable they are and the kinds of motor proteins that run along them. By using a new high-powered microscopy technique, researchers are now able to visualise these different types of microtubules, creating a detailed ‘road map’ of the transport network inside nerve cells.
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