Research ArticleBIOPHYSICS

Ultraprecise single-molecule localization microscopy enables in situ distance measurements in intact cells

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Science Advances  17 Apr 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 16, eaay8271
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay8271


Single-molecule localization microscopy (SMLM) has the potential to quantify the diversity in spatial arrangements of molecules in intact cells. However, this requires that the single-molecule emitters are localized with ultrahigh precision irrespective of the sample format and the length of the data acquisition. We advance SMLM to enable direct distance measurements between molecules in intact cells on the scale between 1 and 20 nm. Our actively stabilized microscope combines three-dimensional real-time drift corrections and achieves a stabilization of <1 nm and localization precision of ~1 nm. To demonstrate the biological applicability of the new microscope, we show a 4- to 7-nm difference in spatial separations between signaling T cell receptors and phosphatases (CD45) in active and resting T cells. In summary, by overcoming the major bottlenecks in SMLM imaging, it is possible to generate molecular images with nanometer accuracy and conduct distance measurements on the biological relevant length scales.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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