Scanning ion conductance microscopy (SICM) was applied to evaluate an unlabeled secretory protein in living cells. The target protein, von Willebrand factor (vWF), was released from human endothelial cells by adding phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate (PMA). We confirmed that SICM could be used to clearly visualize the complex network of vWF and to detect strings with widths as low as 60 nm without any artifact. By acquiring the sequential SICM images of living cells, the protrusion and strings formation were observed. We also detected the opening and closing motions of a small pore (∼500 nm), which is difficult to visualize with fluorescence methods. The results clearly demonstrate that SICM is a powerful tool to examine the changes in living cells during exocytosis.
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