Super-resolution microscopy reveals control of cell shape
Wrapping like a band around the inside of human cells, the actomyosin cortex contracts and expands to pull them into shape – preparing for important activities like cell division. Yet the molecules involved – actin (highlighted in green), and myosin (purple) aren’t always band-mates. Using a technique called STORM imaging, researchers picture cross-sections through these cells at different stages of life, revealing the cortex in white, where myosin and actin overlap. Yet in the younger cell (right) some of the purple myosin has pulled away from the cortex. Researchers believe that the size of bulky myosin molecules influences how and where it twangs back to the actin and re-joins the cortex. This form of steric hindrance may help to control a cell’s shape, and could be influenced in dividing cells, like the one on the left, to treat various forms of cancer.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.