Cell Biology

Seeing the Light

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Science  07 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6137, pp. 1143
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6137.1143-a

The ability to visualize live cells using genetically encoded bioluminescent and fluorescent proteins has provided insight into many biological processes. Sellmyer et al. report a strategy to visualize cell-cell interactions in live animals using bioluminescence, which occurs when lucerifase enzymes are activated by a luciferin substrate. One cell population (the reporter cells) expressed luciferase, whereas a different cell population (the activator cells) expressed an uncaging enzyme and luciferin. The uncaging of activator cells allowed the release of luciferin, which could then diffuse into nearby reporter cells, react with luciferase, and cause the emission of light that was dependent on the distance between the activator and reporter cells. The method was shown to assay cellular proximity in cultured cells and was able to identify metastatic sites in a mouse breast cancer model. Further improvements in the technique will likely allow the visualization of many other cellular interactions, which could lead to new insight into processes such as adaptive immunity or stem cell niche development.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 110, 8567 (2013).

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