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New Phytol. 2006;172(2):208-20.

Application of electron tomography to fungal ultrastructure studies.

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School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA.


Access to structural information at the nanoscale enables fundamental insights into many complex biological systems. The development of the transmission electron microscope (TEM) has vastly increased our understanding of multiple biological systems. However, when attempting to visualize and understand the organizational and functional complexities that are typical of cells and tissues, the standard 2-D analyses that TEM affords often fall short. In recent years, high-resolution electron tomography methods, coupled with advances in specimen preparation and instrumentation and computational speed, have resulted in a revolution in the biological sciences. Electron tomography is analogous to medical computerized axial tomography (CAT-scan imaging) except at a far finer scale. It utilizes the TEM to assemble multiple projections of an object which are then combined for 3-D analyses. For biological specimens, tomography enables the highest 3-D resolution (5 nm spatial resolution) of internal structures in relatively thick slices of material (0.2-0.4 microm) without requiring the collection and alignment of large numbers of thin serial sections. Thus accurate and revealing 3-D reconstructions of complex cytoplasmic entities and architecture can be obtained. Electron tomography is now being applied to a variety of biological questions with great success. This review gives a brief introduction into cryopreservation and electron tomography relative to aspects of cytoplasmic organization in the hyphal tip of Aspergillus nidulans.

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