The Art of Antigen Stimulation

yellowThe cover  image on the November 19 issue of Biophysical Journal depicts the changes in the distribution and diffusion of IgE receptors on the surface of an RBL mast cell that occur when the receptors are cross-linked by multivalent antigen, as characterized by super-resolution fluorescence microscopy. Here the super-resolution map of receptor density is superimposed with single receptor trajectories, and although the change from the top of the image to the bottom looks continuous, this image is really a composite of three images constructed using real live cell super-resolution data taken before, soon after, and several minutes after antigen stimulation. I first plotted the data in MatLab, and then blended the three images together and rendered them as a single image in Adobe Illustrator.

I wanted to submit cover art for our project in part because I felt that the beauty in these images was already very apparent. I was hoping to showcase the aesthetic quality of the data and create an image that was at the same time visually striking, representative of our work, and scientifically interesting. The super-resolution technique used in our study allows us to get a thorough picture of the organization and diffusion behavior of the whole population of receptors on the surface of the cell through analysis of individual molecules. We can also observe dynamic changes in the population in real time as the cell is stimulated. I wanted to capture these themes in the cover art by composing an image that appears very detailed, but gives a clear impression of the contrast between the pre- and post-stimulation states of the population of receptors when viewed as a whole. The continuous change from the top to bottom of the image conveys the notion that the conversion between these two states is dynamic. My co-authors and I are elated that our image was chosen for the cover. Having success with my first ever submission of a cover image has definitely encouraged me to try my hand at converting data into art in the future. Research updates from the Veatch and Baird/Holowka Labs can be found at and

Sarah Shelby, Cornell University


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