Author(s): Gutierrez-Medina, B., S.M. Block
Journal: American Journal of Physics (2010) 78: 1152--1159.
Microtubules are slender (~25 nm diameter), filamentous polymers involved in cellular structure and organization. Individual microtubules have been visualized via fluorescence imaging of dye-labeled tubulin subunits and by video-enhanced, differential interference-contrast microscopy of unlabeled polymers using sensitive CCD cameras. We demonstrate the imaging of unstained microtubules using a microscope with conventional bright field optics in conjunction with a webcam-type camera and a light-emitting diode illuminator. The light scattered by microtubules is image-processed to remove the background, reduce noise, and enhance contrast. The setup is based on a commercial microscope with a minimal set of inexpensive components, suitable for implementation in a student laboratory. We show how this approach can be used in a demonstration motility assay, tracking the gliding motions of microtubules driven by the motor protein kinesin.