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J Struct Biol. 2008 Jun;162(3):380-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2008.02.003. Epub 2008 Mar 4.

Quantitative 3-D imaging of eukaryotic cells using soft X-ray tomography.

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Physical Biosciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 1 Cyclotron Road, MS 6-2100, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Imaging has long been one of the principal techniques used in biological and biomedical research. Indeed, the field of cell biology grew out of the first electron microscopy images of organelles in a cell. Since this landmark event, much work has been carried out to image and classify the organelles in eukaryotic cells using electron microscopy. Fluorescently labeled organelles can now be tracked in live cells, and recently, powerful light microscope techniques have pushed the limit of optical resolution to image single molecules. In this paper, we describe the use of soft X-ray tomography, a new tool for quantitative imaging of organelle structure and distribution in whole, fully hydrated eukaryotic Schizosaccharomyces pombe cells. In addition to imaging intact cells, soft X-ray tomography has the advantage of not requiring the use of any staining or fixation protocols--cells are simply transferred from their growth environment to a sample holder and immediately cryofixed. In this way the cells can be imaged in a near native state. Soft X-ray tomography is also capable of imaging relatively large numbers of cells in a short period of time, and is therefore a technique that has the potential to produce information on organelle morphology from statistically significant numbers of cells.

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