Optical Tracking of Nanometer-Scale Cellular Membrane Deformation Associated with Single Vesicle Release

Fenni Zhang, Yan Guan, Yunze Yang, Ashley Hunt, Shaopeng Wang, Hong Yuan Chen, Nongjian Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Exocytosis involves interactions between secretory vesicles and the plasma membrane. Studying the membrane response is thus critical to understand this important cellular process and to differentiate different mediator release patterns. Here we introduce a label-free optical imaging method to detect the vesicle-membrane-interaction-induced membrane deformation associated with single exocytosis in mast cells. We show that the plasma membrane expands by a few tens of nanometers accompanying each vesicle-release event, but the dynamics of the membrane deformation varies from cell to cell, which reflect different exocytosis processes. Combining the temporal and spatial information allows us to resolve complex vesicle-release processes, such as two vesicle-release events that occur closely in time and location. Simultaneous following a vesicle release with fluorescence and membrane deformation tracking further allows us to determine the propagation speed of the vesicle-release-induced membrane deformation along the cell surface, which has an average value of 5.2 ± 1.8 μm/s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2205-2212
Number of pages8
JournalACS sensors
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 23 2019


  • exocytosis
  • label-free
  • mast cell
  • membrane deformation
  • phase contrast imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Instrumentation
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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