Three-dimensional Imaging of Extracellular Matrix and Extracellular Matrix-Cell Interactions

Methods Cell Biol. 2001;63:583-97. doi: 10.1016/s0091-679x(01)63031-0.


In summary, noninvasive and nondestructive imaging modalities such as reflection and autofluorescence can readily be used in conjunction with the 3-D optical sectioning capabilities of confocal and multiphoton microscopy to investigate biological processes within living systems. The elimination of specimen fixation and extensive processing reduces the possibility of structural artifacts and facilitates repeat observations within a single sample. Therefore, information representing up to four dimensions (x, y, z, and time) can be readily collected and reconstructed for purposes of visualization and/or quantitative analysis. An advantage of using the techniques described in this chapter is the possibility of performing quantitative measurement of cell size, surface area, volume, depth (in matrix), orientation, receptor density, as well as fluorescence-based indicators of phenotype and function. At present, we are effectively utilizing these techniques to study collagen fibrillogenesis and ECM assembly, structural aspects of ECM-based biomaterials, as well as cell interactions within 3-D matrices (e.g., migration). New insights provided by these techniques regarding ECM and ECM-cell signaling will further the understanding of tissue structure and function and contribute to the development of new and improved strategies for tissue repair, replacement, and maintenance.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion*
  • Cell Communication*
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • Fluorescence
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Intestine, Small / cytology
  • Microscopy / methods*


  • Collagen