Visualizing and discovering cellular structures with super-resolution microscopy

Science. 2018 Aug 31;361(6405):880-887. doi: 10.1126/science.aau1044. Epub 2018 Aug 30.


Super-resolution microscopy has overcome a long-held resolution barrier-the diffraction limit-in light microscopy and enabled visualization of previously invisible molecular details in biological systems. Since their conception, super-resolution imaging methods have continually evolved and can now be used to image cellular structures in three dimensions, multiple colors, and living systems with nanometer-scale resolution. These methods have been applied to answer questions involving the organization, interaction, stoichiometry, and dynamics of individual molecular building blocks and their integration into functional machineries in cells and tissues. In this Review, we provide an overview of super-resolution methods, their state-of-the-art capabilities, and their constantly expanding applications to biology, with a focus on the latter. We will also describe the current technical challenges and future advances anticipated in super-resolution imaging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Synapses / ultrastructure