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Proceedings Paper

Imaging genes, chromosomes, and nuclear structures using laser-scanning confocal microscopy
Author(s): Stephen G. Ballard
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Paper Abstract

For 350 years, the optical microscope has had a powerful symbiotic relationship with biology. Until this century, optical microscopy was the only means of examining cellular structure; in return, biologists have contributed greatly to the evolution of microscope design and technique. Recent advances in the detection and processing of optical images, together with methods for labelling specific biological molecules, have brought about a resurgence in the application of optical microscopy to the biological sciences. One of the areas in which optical microscopy is breaking new ground is in elucidating the large scale organization of chromatin in chromosomes and cell nuclei. Nevertheless, imaging the contents of the cell nucleus is a difficult challenge for light microscopy, for two principal reasons. First, the dimensions of all but the largest nuclear structures (nucleoli, vacuoles) are close to or below the resolving power of far field optics. Second, the native optical contrast properties of many important chromatin structures (eg. chromosome domains, centromere regions) are very weak, or essentially zero. As an extreme example, individual genes probably have nothing to distinguish them other than their sequence of DNA bases, which cannot be directly visualized with any current form of microscopy. Similarly, the interphase nucleus shows no direct visible evidence of focal chromatin domains. Thus, imaging of such entities depends heavily on contrast enhancement methods. The most promising of these is labelling DNA in situ using sequence-specific probes that may be visualized using fluorescent dyes. We have applied this method to detecting individual genes in metaphase chromosomes and interphase nuclei, and to imaging a number of DNA-containing structures including chromosome domains, metaphase chromosomes and centromere regions. We have also demonstrated the applicability of in situ fluorescent labelling to detecting numerical and structural abnormalities both in condensed metaphase chromosomes and in interphase nuclei. The ability to image the loci of fluorescent-labelled gene probes hybridized to chromosomes and to interphase nuclei will play a major role in the mapping of the human genome. This presentation is an overview of our laboratory's efforts to use confocal imaging to address fundamental questions about the structure and organization of genes, chromosomes and cell nuclei, and to develop applications useful in clinical diagnosis of inherited diseases.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 August 1990
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 1205, Bioimaging and Two-Dimensional Spectroscopy, (1 August 1990);
Show Author Affiliations
Stephen G. Ballard, Yale Univ./School of Medicine (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 1205:
Bioimaging and Two-Dimensional Spectroscopy
Louis C. Smith, Editor(s)

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