PerspectiveCell Biology

Superresolution Subspace Signaling

Science  04 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6081, pp. 546-547
DOI: 10.1126/science.1222540

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Exquisitely local signaling provides robust, precise, and rapid communication in single cells. Nanometer-wide regions constitute the signaling conduit that separates interacting ion channels, organelles, and sensor and effector proteins. Such signaling domains are primary features of many systems, including those responsible for excitation-contraction coupling in the heart (1, 2), smooth muscle tone in the vasculature (3, 4), and Ca2+ signaling in neurons (5). These intimate pathways, also known as “fuzzy spaces” (1), “subspaces” (6), or “nanoscopic spaces,” permit efficient signaling with rapid and reliable information transfer, yet are too small to be seen with a standard optical microscope. Such superresolution domains may become experimentally visible with the implementation of optical superresolution microscopy (79). On page 597 in this issue, Sonkusare et al. (10) identify a specific and broadly important local signaling organization in small mesenteric arteries (∼100 µm in diameter) that uses nano meter-wide communication regions to regulate local vascular blood flow.