Authors: Lena K. Schroeder, Andrew E.S. Barentine, Holly Merta, Sarah Schweighofer, Yongdeng Zhang, David Baddeley, Joerg Bewersdorf, and Shirin Bahmanyar
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is composed of interconnected membrane sheets and tubules. Superresolution microscopy recently revealed densely packed, rapidly moving ER tubules mistaken for sheets by conventional light microscopy, highlighting the importance of revisiting classical views of ER structure with high spatiotemporal resolution in living cells. In this study, we use live-cell stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy to survey the architecture of the ER at 50-nm resolution. We determine the nanoscale dimensions of ER tubules and sheets for the first time in living cells. We demonstrate that ER sheets contain highly dynamic, subdiffraction-sized holes, which we call nanoholes, that coexist with uniform sheet regions. Reticulon family members localize to curved edges of holes within sheets and are required for their formation. The luminal tether Climp63 and microtubule cytoskeleton modulate their nanoscale dynamics and organization. Thus, by providing the first quantitative analysis of ER membrane structure and dynamics at the nanoscale, our work reveals that the ER in living cells is not limited to uniform sheets and tubules; instead, we suggest the ER contains a continuum of membrane structures that includes dynamic nanoholes in sheets as well as clustered tubules.