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Illuminating the Cell’s Biochemical Activity Architecture

Mehta, Sohum, Zhang, Jin
Biochemistry 2017 v.56 no.39 pp. 5210-5213
biochemical pathways, enzymes, fluorescence, image analysis
All cellular behaviors arise through the coordinated actions of numerous intracellular biochemical pathways. Over the past 20 years, efforts to probe intracellular biochemical processes have undergone a fundamental transformation brought about by advances in fluorescence imaging, such as the development of genetically encoded fluorescent reporters and new imaging technologies; the impact of these approaches on our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of biological function cannot be understated. In particular, the ability to obtain information on the spatiotemporal regulation of biochemical processes unfolding in real time in the native context of a living cell has crystallized the view, long a matter of speculation, that cells achieve specific biological outcomes through the imposition of spatial control over the distribution of various biomolecules, and their associated biochemical activities, within the cellular environment. Indeed, the compartmentalization of biochemical activities by cells is now known to be pervasive and to span a multitude of spatial scales, from the length of a cell to just a few enzymes. In this Perspective, part of this special issue on “Seeing into cells”, we highlight several recent imaging studies that provide detailed insights into not just where molecules are but where molecules are active within cells, offering a glimpse into the emerging view of biochemical activity architecture as a complement to the physical architecture of a cell.