J. Neurosci. 42 (45) 8488-8497 [2022-11-09; online 2022-11-10]
Super-resolution fluorescence microscopy holds tremendous potential for discovery in neuroscience. Much of the molecular machinery and anatomic specializations that give rise to the unique and bewildering electrochemical activity of neurons are nanoscale by design, ranging somewhere between 1 nm and 1 μm. It is at this scale where most of the unknown and exciting action is and where cell biologists flock to in their dreams, but it was off limits for light microscopy until recently. While the optical principles of super-resolution microscopy are firmly established by now, the technology continues to advance rapidly in many crucial areas, enhancing its performance and reliability, and making it more accessible and user-friendly, which is sorely needed. Indeed, super-resolution microscopy techniques are nowadays widely used for visualizing immunolabeled protein distributions in fixed or living cells. However, a great potential of super-resolution microscopy for neuroscience lies in shining light on the nanoscale structures and biochemical activities in live-tissue settings, which should be developed and harnessed much more fully. In this review, we will present several vivid examples based on STED and RESOLFT super-resolution microscopy, illustrating the possibilities and challenges of nano-imaging in vivo to pique the interest of tech-developers and neurobiologists alike. We will cover recent technical progress that is facilitating in vivo applications, and share new biological insights into the nanoscale mechanisms of cellular communication between neurons and glia.