Direct imaging of morphological dynamics of live mammalian cells with nanometer resolution under physiological conditions is highly expected, but yet challenging. High-speed atomic force microscopy (HS-AFM) is a unique technique for capturing biomolecules at work under near physiological conditions. However, application of HS-AFM for imaging of live mammalian cells was hard to be accomplished because of collision between a huge mammalian cell and a cantilever during AFM scanning. Here, we review our recent improvements of HS-AFM for imaging of activities of live mammalian cells without significant damage to the cell. The improvement of an extremely long (~3 μm) AFM tip attached to a cantilever enables us to reduce severe damage to soft mammalian cells. In addition, a combination of HS-AFM with simple fluorescence microscopy allows us to quickly locate the cell in the AFM scanning area. After these improvements, we demonstrate that developed HS-AFM for live mammalian cells is possible to image morphogenesis of filopodia, membrane ruffles, pits open-close formations, and endocytosis in COS-7, HeLa cells as well as hippocampal neurons.
2017 THE BIOPHYSICAL SOCIETY OF JAPAN