Brief Communication abstract

Nature Methods 6, 279 - 281 (2009)
Published online: 1 March 2009 | Corrected online: 3 September 2009 | doi:10.1038/nmeth.1306

There is a Corrigendum (December 2009) associated with this Brief Communication.

Nanoscale live-cell imaging using hopping probe ion conductance microscopy

Pavel Novak1,2,7, Chao Li3,7, Andrew I Shevchuk1, Ruben Stepanyan4, Matthew Caldwell5,6, Simon Hughes5, Trevor G Smart5, Julia Gorelik2, Victor P Ostanin3, Max J Lab1, Guy W J Moss5,6, Gregory I Frolenkov4, David Klenerman3 & Yuri E Korchev1


We describe hopping mode scanning ion conductance microscopy that allows noncontact imaging of the complex three-dimensional surfaces of live cells with resolution better than 20 nm. We tested the effectiveness of this technique by imaging networks of cultured rat hippocampal neurons and mechanosensory stereocilia of mouse cochlear hair cells. The technique allowed examination of nanoscale phenomena on the surface of live cells under physiological conditions.

  1. Division of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, UK.
  2. National Heart and Lung Institute, Department of Cardiac Medicine, Imperial College London, London, UK.
  3. Department of Chemistry, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK.
  4. Department of Physiology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA.
  5. Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, University College London, London, UK.
  6. Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology, University College London, London, UK.
  7. These authors contributed equally to this work.

Correspondence to: Yuri E Korchev1 e-mail:

Correspondence to: David Klenerman3 e-mail:

Correspondence to: Gregory I Frolenkov4 e-mail:

* NOTE: In the version of this paper originally published, references to previous work on pulse mode SICM should have been included (Mann et al. J. Neurosci. Methods 116, 113–117, (2002) and Happel et al. J. Microsc. 212, 144–151 (2003)). These references were removed during shortening of the paper for publication and have been added back to the PDF and HTML versions of this article. The pulse mode technique reported in these previous papers has conceptual similarity to our hopping mode SICM, in that distance feedback control is not continuous; thus, it also solves the problem of probe-sample collision for large cellular structures. However, the pulse mode technique is considerably slower owing to a different feedback mechanism and does not perform at nanoscale resolution.


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