Seeing Stars


They may look like stars in a distant galaxy, but in fact these pictures each show a single cell nucleus and the tiny ‘stars’ are pores in the nuclear membrane. These mesmerizing images show the incredible resolution that modern light microscopes are able to achieve – the whole nucleus is approximately 6µm wide, and each nuclear pore is only about 100nm (or a hundred billionths of a meter) across!

Dr Sandra Ritz from IMB’s Microscopy Core Facility used a fluorescent nucleoporin antibody to stain these cell nuclei and has taken images using two different techniques: ‘conventional’ confocal light scanning microscopy (CLSM; left); and stimulated emission depletion microscopy (STED; right). STED allows you to pinpoint individual nuclear pores, which are visible only as a blur in the CLSM image.