Scientists need to redraw picture of cell’s biggest organelle | Science News

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Scientists need to redraw picture of cell’s biggest organelle

Super-resolution microscopy reveals surprising details of endoplasmic reticulum’s architecture

2:00pm, October 27, 2016
Endoplasmic reticulum

CELLULAR SURPRISE  Super-resolution imaging of the endoplasmic reticulum, a multifaceted organelle within the cell, shows that it’s a tangled web of interconnected tubes, instead of containing flat sheets as previously believed.

Textbook drawings of the cell’s largest organelle might need to be updated based on new images. Super-resolution shots of the endoplasmic reticulum reveal tightly packed tubes where previous pictures showed plain flat sheets, scientists report in the Oct. 28 Science.

The finding helps explain how the endoplasmic reticulum, or ER, reshapes itself in response to changing conditions, says study coauthor Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, a cell biologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Va.

The ER is a snaking network of membranes that stretches from the nucleus of the cell to its edge. A sort of cellular jack-of-all-trades, it provides scaffolding for protein-producing ribosomes and makes sure those proteins are folded properly. It churns out lipids. And it stores and releases calcium, which sends messages within and between cells.

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