Cell stimulation with optically manipulated microsources

Nat Methods. 2009 Dec;6(12):905-9. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.1400. Epub 2009 Nov 15.


Molecular gradients are important for various biological processes including the polarization of tissues and cells during embryogenesis and chemotaxis. Investigations of these phenomena require control over the chemical microenvironment of cells. We present a technique to set up molecular concentration patterns that are chemically, spatially and temporally flexible. Our strategy uses optically manipulated microsources, which steadily release molecules. Our technique enables the control of molecular concentrations over length scales down to about 1 microm and timescales from fractions of a second to an hour. We demonstrate this technique by manipulating the motility of single human neutrophils. We induced directed cell polarization and migration with microsources loaded with the chemoattractant formyl-methionine-leucine-phenylalanine. Furthermore, we triggered highly localized retraction of lamellipodia and redirection of polarization and migration with microsources releasing cytochalasin D, an inhibitor of actin polymerization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Polarity / drug effects
  • Humans
  • N-Formylmethionine Leucyl-Phenylalanine / pharmacology
  • Neutrophils / cytology*
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Optics and Photonics*


  • N-Formylmethionine Leucyl-Phenylalanine