Visualization and quantitative analysis of reconstituted tight junctions using localization microscopy

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Tight Junctions (TJ) regulate paracellular permeability of tissue barriers. Claudins (Cld) form the backbone of TJ-strands. Pore-forming claudins determine the permeability for ions, whereas that for solutes and macromolecules is assumed to be crucially restricted by the strand morphology (i.e., density, branching and continuity). To investigate determinants of the morphology of TJ-strands we established a novel approach using localization microscopy. TJ-strands were reconstituted by stable transfection of HEK293 cells with the barrier-forming Cld3 or Cld5. Strands were investigated at cell-cell contacts by Spectral Position Determination Microscopy (SPDM), a method of localization microscopy using standard fluorophores. Extended TJ-networks of Cld3-YFP and Cld5-YFP were observed. For each network, 200,000 to 1,100,000 individual molecules were detected with a mean localization accuracy of ~20 nm, yielding a mean structural resolution of ~50 nm. Compared to conventional fluorescence microscopy, this strongly improved the visualization of strand networks and enabled quantitative morphometric analysis. Two populations of elliptic meshes (mean diameter <100 nm and 300-600 nm, respectively) were revealed. For Cld5 the two populations were more separated than for Cld3. Discrimination of non-polymeric molecules and molecules within polymeric strands was achieved. For both subtypes of claudins the mean density of detected molecules was similar and estimated to be ~24 times higher within the strands than outside the strands. The morphometry and single molecule information provided advances the mechanistic analysis of paracellular barriers. Applying this novel method to different TJ-proteins is expected to significantly improve the understanding of TJ on the molecular level. © 2012 Kaufmann et al.




Kaufmann, R., Piontek, J., Grüll, F., Kirchgessner, M., Rossa, J., Wolburg, H., … Cremer, C. (2012). Visualization and quantitative analysis of reconstituted tight junctions using localization microscopy. PLoS ONE, 7(2).

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