Spotlight: A giant in action

This beautiful image of the giant slime mould Physarum polycephalum was captured using a smartphone by EMBL predoctoral fellow Felix Mikus.

A Physarum polycephalum with different colours, where each colour shows the expansion of the cell at various time points.
Physarum polycephalum. Credit: Felix Mikus/EMBL

A comet, a flower, or a sea creature?

Actually, none of the above. This blob (scientific name Physarum polycephalum) is a single, giant cell which contains tens of thousands of nuclei sharing a single cytoplasm. Actomyosin contractions allow this slime mould to “expand” rapidly, at the rate of centimetres per hour.

The different colours in this picture represent different time points, which, when superimposed, show us the extent of the cell’s growth. This single-celled slime mould is large enough to be photographed by a mobile phone – the image above has been taken with a smartphone. 

A similar image taken by Mikus won the British Society for Cell Biology 2022 image competition back in April. The original culture was provided by Karen Alim, TU Munich.

Tags: biological imaging, cell biology, dey, heidelberg, nucleus


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