Light microscopy techniques for live cell imaging

Science. 2003 Apr 4;300(5616):82-6. doi: 10.1126/science.1082160.


Since the earliest examination of cellular structures, biologists have been fascinated by observing cells using light microscopy. The advent of fluorescent labeling technologies plus the plethora of sophisticated light microscope techniques now available make studying dynamic processes in living cells almost commonplace. For anyone new to this area, however, it can be daunting to decide which techniques or equipment to try. Here, we aim to give a brief overview of the main approaches to live cell imaging, with some mention of their pros and cons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Physiological Phenomena*
  • Fluorescence
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Light
  • Microscopy / instrumentation
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Microscopy, Confocal / instrumentation
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / instrumentation
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Optics and Photonics
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence


  • Fluorescent Dyes