We present a combination of nonlinear microscopy, laser nanosurgery and optical trapping applied to the 3D imaging and manipulation of intracellular structures in live cells. We use Titanium-sapphire laser pulses for a combined nonlinear microscopy and nanosurgery on microtubules tagged with green fluorescent protein (GFP) in fission yeast. The same laser source is also used to trap small round lipid droplets naturally present in the cell. The trapped droplets are used as handles to exert a pushing force on the nucleus, allowing for a displacement of the nucleus away from its normal position in the center of the cell. We show that nonlinear nanosurgery and optical manipulation can be performed with sub-micrometer precision and without visible collateral damage to the cell. We present this combination as an important tool in cell biology for the manipulation of specific structures in alternative to genetic methods or chemical agents. This technique can be applied to several fundamental problems in cell biology, including the study of dynamics processes in cell division.
Second-harmonic generation (SHG) is emerging as a powerful tool for the optical measurement of transmembrane potential in live cells with high sensitivity and temporal resolution. Using a patch clamp, we characterize the sensitivity of the SHG signal to transmembrane potential for the RH 237 dye in various normal and tumor cell types. SHG sensitivity shows a significant dependence on the type of cell, ranging from 10 to 17% per 100 mV. Furthermore, in the samples studied, tumor cell lines display a higher sensitivity compared to normal cells. In particular, the SHG sensitivity increases in the cell line Balb/c3T3 by the transformation induced with SV40 infection of the cells. We also demonstrate that fluorescent labeling of the membrane with RH 237 at the concentration used for SHG measurements does not induce any measurable alteration in the electrophysiological properties of the cells investigated. Therefore, SHG is suitable for the investigation of outstanding questions in electrophysiology and neurobiology.
We use near-IR femtosecond laser pulses for a combination of microscopy and nanosurgery on fluorescently labeled structures within living cells. Three-dimensional reconstructions of microtubule structures tagged with green fluorescent protein (GFP) are made during different phases of the cell cycle. Further, the microtubules are dissected using the same laser beam but with a higher laser power than for microscopy. We establish the viability of this technique for the cells of a fission yeast, which is a common model to study the mechanics of cell division. We show that nanosurgery can be performed with submicrometer precision and without visible collateral damage to the cell. The energy is primarily absorbed by the GFP molecules, and not by other native structures in the cell. GFP is particularly suitable for multiphoton excitation, as its excitation wavelength near 900 nm is benign for most cellular structures. The ability to use GFP to label structures for destruction by multiphoton excitation may be a valuable tool in cell biology.