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J Vis Exp. 2012 Dec 3;(70):e3995. doi: 10.3791/3995.

Nano-fEM: protein localization using photo-activated localization microscopy and electron microscopy.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Utah.

Abstract

Mapping the distribution of proteins is essential for understanding the function of proteins in a cell. Fluorescence microscopy is extensively used for protein localization, but subcellular context is often absent in fluorescence images. Immuno-electron microscopy, on the other hand, can localize proteins, but the technique is limited by a lack of compatible antibodies, poor preservation of morphology and because most antigens are not exposed to the specimen surface. Correlative approaches can acquire the fluorescence image from a whole cell first, either from immuno-fluorescence or genetically tagged proteins. The sample is then fixed and embedded for electron microscopy, and the images are correlated (1-3). However, the low-resolution fluorescence image and the lack of fiducial markers preclude the precise localization of proteins. Alternatively, fluorescence imaging can be done after preserving the specimen in plastic. In this approach, the block is sectioned, and fluorescence images and electron micrographs of the same section are correlated (4-7). However, the diffraction limit of light in the correlated image obscures the locations of individual molecules, and the fluorescence often extends beyond the boundary of the cell. Nano-resolution fluorescence electron microscopy (nano-fEM) is designed to localize proteins at nano-scale by imaging the same sections using photo-activated localization microscopy (PALM) and electron microscopy. PALM overcomes the diffraction limit by imaging individual fluorescent proteins and subsequently mapping the centroid of each fluorescent spot (8-10). We outline the nano-fEM technique in five steps. First, the sample is fixed and embedded using conditions that preserve the fluorescence of tagged proteins. Second, the resin blocks are sectioned into ultrathin segments (70-80 nm) that are mounted on a cover glass. Third, fluorescence is imaged in these sections using the Zeiss PALM microscope. Fourth, electron dense structures are imaged in these same sections using a scanning electron microscope. Fifth, the fluorescence and electron micrographs are aligned using gold particles as fiducial markers. In summary, the subcellular localization of fluorescently tagged proteins can be determined at nanometer resolution in approximately one week.

PMID:
23242070
PMCID:
PMC3566706
DOI:
10.3791/3995
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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