The three-dimensional (3D) architecture of the cell nucleus is determined not only by the presence of subnuclear domains, such as the nuclear envelope, chromosome territories, and nuclear bodies, but also by smaller domains which form in response to specific functions, such as RNA transcription, DNA replication, and DNA repair. Since both stable and dynamic structures contribute to nuclear morphology, it is important to study the biophysical principles of the formation of macromolecular assemblies within the nucleus. For this purpose, a variety of fluorescence fluctuation microscopy techniques can be applied. Here, we summarize our current knowledge on the 3D architecture of the mammalian cell nucleus and describe in detail how the assembly of functional nuclear protein complexes can be analyzed in living cells using fluorescence bleaching techniques, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, raster image correlation spectroscopy, and mathematical modeling. In conclusion, the application of all these techniques in combination is a powerful tool to assess the full spectrum of nuclear protein dynamics and to understand the biophysical principles underlying nuclear structure and function.
Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.