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Linear Chains of HER2 Receptors Found in the Plasma Membrane Using Liquid-Phase Electron Microscopy

Kelly Parker; Patrick Trampert; Verena Tinnemann; Diana Peckys; Tim Dahmen; Niels de Jonge
In: Biophysical Journal, Vol. 115, Pages 503-513, Elsevier, 6/2018.


The spatial distribution of the human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) receptor in the plasma membrane of SKBR3 and HCC1954 breast cancer cells was studied. The receptor was labeled with quantum dot nanoparticles, and fixed whole cells were imaged in their native liquid state with environmental scanning electron microscopy using scanning transmission electron microscopy detection. The locations of individual HER2 positions were determined in a total plasma membrane area of 991 μm 2 for several SKBR3 cells and 1062 μm 2 for HCC1954 cells. Some of the HER2 receptors were arranged in a linear chain with interlabel distances of 40 ± 7 and 32 ± 10 nm in SKBR3 and HCC1954 cells, respectively. The finding was tested against randomly occurring linear chains of six or more positions, from which it was concluded that the experimental finding is significant and did not arise from random label distributions. Because the measured interlabel distance in the HER2 chains is similar to the 36-nm helix-repetition distance of actin filaments, it is proposed that a linking mechanism between HER2 and actin filaments leads to linearly aligned oligomers.