Abstract

Single-molecule imaging has mostly been restricted to the use of fluorescence labelling as a contrast mechanism due to its superior ability to visualise molecules of interest on top of an overwhelming background of other molecules. Recently, interferometric scattering (iSCAT) microscopy has demonstrated the detection and imaging of single biomolecules based on light scattering without the need for fluorescent labels. Significant improvements in measurement sensitivity combined with a dependence of scattering signal on object size have led to the development of mass photometry, a technique that measures the mass of individual molecules and thereby determines mass distributions of biomolecule samples in solution. The experimental simplicity of mass photometry makes it a powerful tool to analyse biomolecular equilibria quantitatively with low sample consumption within minutes. When used for label-free imaging of reconstituted or cellular systems, the strict size-dependence of the iSCAT signal enables quantitative measurements of processes at size scales reaching from single-molecule observations during complex assembly up to mesoscopic dynamics of cellular components and extracellular protrusions. In this review, I would like to introduce the principles of this emerging imaging technology and discuss examples that show how mass-sensitive iSCAT can be used as a strong complement to other routine techniques in biochemistry.

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