Immunolabeling artifacts and the need for live-cell imaging

Nat Methods. 2012 Jan 30;9(2):152-8. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.1855.


Fluorescent fusion proteins have revolutionized examination of proteins in living cells. Still, studies using these proteins are met with criticism because proteins are modified and ectopically expressed, in contrast to immunofluorescence studies. However, introducing immunoreagents inside cells can cause protein extraction or relocalization, not reflecting the in vivo situation. Here we discuss pitfalls of immunofluorescence labeling that often receive little attention and argue that immunostaining experiments in dead, permeabilized cells should be complemented with live-cell imaging when scrutinizing protein localization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aldehydes / metabolism
  • Artifacts*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Cells*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Proteins / metabolism*


  • Aldehydes
  • Proteins