Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

nanoPaint: Dynamic Imaging of Nanoscopic Structural Plasticity of the Plasma Membrane

Version 1 : Received: 24 October 2018 / Approved: 25 October 2018 / Online: 25 October 2018 (11:19:17 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.


Single-particle tracking with quantum dots (QDs) constitutes a powerful tool to track the nanoscopic dynamics of individual cell membrane components unveiling their membrane diffusion characteristics. Here we tested the possibility of extracting from the nano-resolved (16 ms and 30 nm) population dynamics of several quantum dots, time-binned at the second time-scale, the rapid structural changes of the cell membrane surface. We used for this proof-of-concept study bright, small and stable biofunctional QD nanoconstructs recognizing the neuronal cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptor and a commercial point-localization microscope to reconstruct in 3D the dynamics of the plasma membrane surface of cultured cells with a spatial resolution of tens of nanometers. CB1 receptor was chosen because it’s a highly expressed and fast diffusing membrane protein. Therefore, rapid QD diffusion on the axonal plasma membrane of cultured hippocampal neurons allowed highly precise reconstruction of the membrane surface in less than one minute. QD nanoconstructs diffused into the membrane of synaptic clefts allowing the entire topological reconstruction of the presynaptic component. In addition, we demonstrated successful reconstruction of the remarkably high dynamics of membrane surface topology at the second time-scale both in HEK-293 cell filopodia and axons. Our results show that this novel technique, which we named nanoPaint, is a powerful precision tool for the study of the structural plasticity of cell membrane surfaces.


super-resolution microscopy; quantum dots; cannabinoid receptor type 1; neuronal plasticity; synapses


Biology and Life Sciences, Cell and Developmental Biology

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