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One of the ultimate goals of biological research is to understand mechanisms of cell function within living organisms. With this in mind, many sophisticated technologies that allow us to inspect macromolecular structure in exquisite detail have been developed. Although knowledge of structure derived from techniques such as X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance is of vital importance, these approaches cannot reveal the remarkable complexity of molecular interactions that exists in vivo. With this in mind, this review focuses on the use of microscopy techniques to analyze cell structure and function. We describe the different basic microscopic methodologies and how the routine techniques are best applied to particular biological problems. We also emphasize the specific capabilities and uses of light and electron microscopy and highlight their individual advantages and disadvantages. For completion, we also comment on the alternative possibilities provided by a variety of advanced imaging technologies. We hope that this brief analysis of the undoubted power of microscopy techniques will be enough to stimulate a wider participation in this rapidly developing area of biological discovery.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Methods

Publication Date

02/2003

Volume

29

Pages

131 - 141

Keywords

Animals, Cell Nucleus, Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Histocytochemistry, Immunohistochemistry, Microscopy, Microscopy, Electron, Microscopy, Fluorescence, Optics and Photonics, Spectrometry, Fluorescence