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Methods. 1999 Feb;17(2):188-200.

Electron spectroscopic imaging of chromatin.

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Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada.


The analytical electron microscope technique called electron spectroscopic imaging (ESI) has a number of applications in the study of DNA:protein complexes. The method offers an intermediate level of spatial resolution for in vitro structural studies of complexes that may be too large or heterogeneous to study by crystallography or magnetic resonance spectroscopy. An advantage of ESI is that the distribution of nucleic acids can be resolved in a nucleoprotein complex by mapping the element phosphorus, present at high levels in nucleic acid compared to protein. Measurements of phosphorus content together with mass determination allows estimates to be made of stoichiometric relationships of protein and nucleic acids in these complexes. ESI is also suited to in situ studies of nuclear structure. Mass-sensitive images combined with nitrogen and phosphorus maps can be used to distinguish nucleic acid components from nuclear structures that are predominantly protein based. Interactions between chromatin on the periphery of interchromatin granule clusters (IGC) with the protein substructure that connects the exterior of the IGC to its core can be studied with this technique. The method also avoids the use of heavy atom stains, agents required in conventional electron microscopy, that preclude the distinguishing of structures on the basis of their biochemical composition. The principles of ESI and technical aspects of the method are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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