Biophysical nanocharacterization of liver sinusoidal endothelial cells through atomic force microscopy

Biophys Rev. 2020 Jun;12(3):625-636. doi: 10.1007/s12551-020-00699-0. Epub 2020 May 18.


The structural-functional hallmark of the liver sinusoidal endothelium is the presence of fenestrae grouped in sieve plates. Fenestrae are open membrane bound pores supported by a (sub)membranous cytoskeletal lattice. Changes in number and diameter of fenestrae alter bidirectional transport between the sinusoidal blood and the hepatocytes. Their physiological relevance has been shown in different liver disease models. Although the structural organization of fenestrae has been well documented using different electron microscopy approaches, the dynamic nature of those pores remained an enigma until the recent developments in the research field of four dimensional (4-D) AFM. In this contribution we highlight how AFM as a biophysical nanocharacterization tool enhanced our understanding in the dynamic behaviour of liver sinusoidal endothelial fenestrae. Different AFM probing approaches, including spectroscopy, enabled mapping of topography and nanomechanical properties at unprecedented resolution under live cell imaging conditions. This dynamic biophysical characterization approach provided us with novel information on the 'short' life-span, formation, disappearance and closure of hepatic fenestrae. These observations are briefly reviewed against the existing literature.

Keywords: Cell Nanoscopy; Cytoskeleton; Elasticity; Fenestrae/fenestrations; Force mapping; Live cell imaging.

Publication types

  • Review