We have discovered a new method, Fluorescent Speckle Microscopy (FSM), for analyzing the dynamic movement and turnover of macromolecular protein assemblies, such as the cytoskeleton, in living cells (Waterman-Storer et al., 1998). FSM compliments or replaces the techniques of fluorescence recovery after photobleaching or photoactivation of fluorescence for measuring protein dynamics in vivo. For FSM, cells are microinjected with a very low fraction of fluorescently labeled subunits that co-assemble with unlabeled subunits to give a structure with a fluorescent speckled appearance in diffraction-limited wide-field or confocal digital fluorescence images. At low fractions of fluorescent subunits relative to unlabeled subunits, fluorescent speckles vary randomly in intensity according to the number of fluorescent subunits within a diffraction-limited region. in time-lapse FSM image series, movement of the fluorescent speckle pattern indicates translocation of structures, while changes in speckle intensity indicate subunit turnover. We have used FSM to study microtubule and actin behavior in interphase and mitotic cells. We use kymograph analysis to quantitate the movement of speckled structures (Fig 1) and are currently developing analysis procedures to quantify subunit turnover in structures.
We have applied these methods to the study of microtubule and actin cytoskeletal dynamics in migrating vertebrate cells in culture. Interactions between the microtubule and actin cytoskeletons underlie fundamental cellular processes such as cytokinesis and cell locomotion, but are poorly understood.