Visualising the actin cytoskeleton

Microsc Res Tech. 1999 Oct 1;47(1):3-17. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0029(19991001)47:1<3::AID-JEMT2>3.0.CO;2-2.


The actin cytoskeleton is a dynamic filamentous network whose formation and remodeling underlies the fundamental processes of cell motility and shape determination. To serve these roles, different compartments of the actin cytoskeleton engage in forming specific coupling sites between neighbouring cells and with the underlying matrix, which themselves serve signal transducing functions. In this review, we focus on methods used to visualise the actin cytoskeleton and its dynamics, embracing the use of proteins tagged with conventional fluorophores and green fluorescent protein. Included also is a comparison of cooled CCD technology, confocal and 2-photon fluorescence microscopy of living and fixed cells, as well as a critique of current procedures for electron microscopy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / analysis*
  • Actins / chemistry
  • Actins / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chickens
  • Cytoskeleton / chemistry*
  • Fishes
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Freezing
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Keratinocytes / chemistry
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Phalloidine / metabolism
  • Rhodamines / metabolism
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Tissue Fixation


  • Actins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Rhodamines
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Phalloidine
  • tetramethylrhodamine