Actin visualization at a glance
Michael Melak, Matthias Plessner, Robert Grosse
J Cell Sci 2017 130: 525-530; doi: 10.1242/jcs.189068
Actin functions in a multitude of cellular processes owing to its ability to polymerize into filaments, which can be further organized into higher-order structures by an array of actin-binding and regulatory proteins. Therefore, research on actin and actin-related functions relies on the visualization of actin structures without interfering with the cycles of actin polymerization and depolymerization that underlie cellular actin dynamics. In this Cell Science at a Glance and the accompanying poster, we briefly evaluate the different techniques and approaches currently applied to analyze and visualize cellular actin structures, including in the nuclear compartment. Referring to the gold standard F-actin marker phalloidin to stain actin in fixed samples and tissues, we highlight methods for visualization of actin in living cells, which mostly apply the principle of genetically fusing fluorescent proteins to different actin-binding domains, such as LifeAct, utrophin and F-tractin, as well as anti-actin-nanobody technology. In addition, the compound SiR-actin and the expression of GFP–actin are also applicable for various types of live-cell analyses. Overall, the visualization of actin within a physiological context requires a careful choice of method, as well as a tight control of the amount or the expression level of a given detection probe in order to minimize its influence on endogenous actin dynamics.
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