Using Live Cell STED Imaging to Visualize Mitochondrial Inner Membrane Ultrastructure in Neuronal Cell Models
Emery L. Ng, Ashley L. Reed, Christopher B. O’Connell, Nathan N. Alder
Neuroscience, Ca2+ homeostasis, Mitochondria, cristae dynamics
Mitochondria play many essential roles in the cell, including energy production, regulation of Ca2+ homeostasis, lipid biosynthesis, and production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These mitochondria-mediated processes take on specialized roles in neurons, coordinating aerobic metabolism to meet the high energy demands of these cells, modulating Ca2+ signaling, providing lipids for axon growth and regeneration, and tuning ROS production for neuronal development and function. Mitochondrial dysfunction is therefore a central driver in neurodegenerative diseases. Mitochondrial structure and function are inextricably linked. The morphologically complex inner membrane with structural infolds called cristae harbors many molecular systems that perform the signature processes of the mitochondrion. The architectural features of the inner membrane are ultrastructural and therefore, too small to be visualized by traditional diffraction-limited resolved microscopy. Thus, most insights on mitochondrial ultrastructure have come from electron microscopy on fixed samples. However, emerging technologies in super-resolution fluorescence microscopy now provide resolution down to tens of nanometers, allowing visualization of ultrastructural features in live cells. Super-resolution imaging therefore offers an unprecedented ability to directly image fine details of mitochondrial structure, nanoscale protein distributions, and cristae dynamics, providing fundamental new insights that link mitochondria to human health and disease. This protocol presents the use of stimulated emission depletion (STED) super-resolution microscopy to visualize the mitochondrial ultrastructure of live human neuroblastoma cells and primary rat neurons. This procedure is organized into five sections: (1) growth and differentiation of the SH-SY5Y cell line, (2) isolation, plating, and growth of primary rat hippocampal neurons, (3) procedures for staining cells for live STED imaging, (4) procedures for live cell STED experiments using a STED microscope for reference, and (5) guidance for segmentation and image processing using examples to measure and quantify morphological features of the inner membrane.