SciShots: One happy cell (nucleus)

Explorations of the nuclear envelope, the thin membrane surrounding a cell’s chromosomes, reveal unexpected wrinkles

March 25, 2022


Allen Institute for Cell Science researchers photograph thousands and thousands of different cells under the microscope. Sometimes, one of those photos captures something unusual. The cells these scientists work with are human stem cells, derived from an adult donor’s skin cells and engineered to revert to a more “naive” state. Biologists at the Allen Institute have further engineered these stem cells to tag certain proteins or cellular structures with glowing fluorescent labels. These cells, in an image captured by scientist Chris Frick, Ph.D., are engineered with a label that marks the nuclear envelope, the thin membrane that surrounds the cell’s nucleus. Each of our cells houses all its chromosomes inside the nucleus, as well as many specialized proteins that regulate how our genes switch on or off. The protein labeled in these cells, known as lamin B1, is a key part of the nuclear envelope. In most stem cells, the nuclear envelope is smooth, but wrinkles can occasionally form in its thin surface — sometimes taking on unexpected shapes. Rachel Tompa, Ph.D.

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