3D mapping of native extracellular matrix reveals cellular responses to the microenvironment

Zipora Lansky, Yael Mutsafi, Lothar Houben, Tal Ilani, Gad Armony, Sharon G. Wolf, Deborah Fass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cells and extracellular matrix (ECM) are mutually interdependent: cells guide self-assembly of ECM precursors, and the resulting ECM architecture supports and instructs cells. Though bidirectional signaling between ECM and cells is fundamental to cell biology, it is challenging to gain high-resolution structural information on cellular responses to the matrix microenvironment. Here we used cryo-scanning transmission electron tomography (CSTET) to reveal the nanometer- to micron-scale organization of major fibroblast ECM components in a native-like context, while simultaneously visualizing internal cell ultrastructure including organelles and cytoskeleton. In addition to extending current models for collagen VI fibril organization, three-dimensional views of thick cell regions and surrounding matrix showed how ECM networks impact the structures and dynamics of intracellular organelles and how cells remodel ECM. Collagen VI and fibronectin were seen to distribute in fundamentally different ways in the cell microenvironment and perform distinct roles in supporting and interacting with cells. This work demonstrates that CSTET provides a new perspective for the study of ECM in cell biology, highlighting labeled extracellular elements against a backdrop of unlabeled but morphologically identifiable cellular features with nanometer resolution detail.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100002
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Structural Biology: X
Early online date19 Dec 2018
StatePublished - Jan 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Structural Biology


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