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Abstract

Super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, also known as nanoscopy, has provided us with a glimpse of future impacts on cell biology. Far-field optical nanoscopy allows, for the first time, the study of sub-cellular nanoscale biological structures in living cells, which in the past was limited to electron microscopy (EM) (in fixed/dehydrated) cells or tissues. Nanoscopy has particular utility in the study of "fenestrations" - phospholipid transmembrane nanopores of 50-150 nm in diameter through liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs) that facilitate the passage of plasma, but (usually) not blood cells, to and from the surrounding hepatocytes. Previously, these fenestrations were only discernible with EM, but now they can be visualized in fixed and living cells using structured illumination microscopy (SIM) and in fixed cells using single molecule localization microscopy (SMLM) techniques such as direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy. Importantly, both methods use wet samples, avoiding dehydration artifacts. The use of nanoscopy can be extended to the in vitro study of fenestration dynamics, to address questions such as the following: are they actually dynamic structures, and how do they respond to endogenous and exogenous agents? A logical further extension of these methodologies to liver research (including the liver endothelium) will be their application to liver tissue sections from animal models with different pathological manifestations and ultimately to patient biopsies. This review will cover the current state of the art of the use of nanoscopy in the study of liver endothelium and the liver in general. Potential future applications in cell biology and the clinical implications will be discussed.