Visualizing molecular diffusion through passive permeability barriers in cells: conventional and novel approaches

Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2013 Aug;17(4):663-71. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2013.04.027. Epub 2013 May 31.


Diffusion barriers are universal solutions for cells to achieve distinct organizations, compositions, and activities within a limited space. The influence of diffusion barriers on the spatiotemporal dynamics of signaling molecules often determines cellular physiology and functions. Over the years, the passive permeability barriers in various subcellular locales have been characterized using elaborate analytical techniques. In this review, we will summarize the current state of knowledge on the various passive permeability barriers present in mammalian cells. We will conclude with a description of several conventional techniques and one new approach based on chemically inducible diffusion trap (CIDT) for probing permeable barriers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / chemistry
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cytoplasm / chemistry
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Diffusion
  • Fluorescent Dyes / analysis
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Permeability


  • Fluorescent Dyes