High-resolution three-dimensional imaging of the rich membrane structures of bone marrow-derived mast cells

T. Zink, Z. Deng, H. Chen, L. Yu, Fu-Tong Liu, Gang-yu Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Atomic force microscopy (AFM) enables high-resolution three-dimensional (3D) imaging of cultured bone marrow-derived mast cells. Cells were immobilized by a quick centrifugation and fixation to preserve their transient cellular morphologies followed by AFM characterization in buffer. This "fix-and-look" approach preserves the structural integrity of individual cells. Well-known membrane morphologies, such as ridges and microvilli, are visualized, consistent with prior electron microscopy observations. Additional information including the 3D measurements of these characteristic features are attained from AFM topographs. Filopodia and lamellopodia, associated with cell spreading, were captured and visualized in three dimensions. New morphologies are also revealed, such as high-density ridges and micro-craters. This investigation demonstrates that the "fix-and-look" approach followed by AFM imaging provides an effective means to characterize the membrane structure of hydrated cells with high resolution. The quantitative imaging and measurements pave the way for systematic correlation of membrane structural features with the biological status of individual cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-31
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Bone marrow-derived mast cells
  • Cell membrane
  • Craters
  • High-resolution imaging
  • Ridges
  • Villi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials


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