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J Microsc. 1995 May;178(Pt 2):107-19.

Mechanism of image formation for thick biological specimens: exit wavefront reconstruction and electron energy-loss spectroscopic imaging.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California at San Francisco 94143-0448, USA.


With increasing frequency, cellular organelles and nuclear structures are being investigated at high resolution using electron microscopic tomography of thick sections (0.3-1.0 microns). In order to reconstruct the structures in three dimensions accurately from the observed image intensities, it is essential to understand the relationship between the image intensity and the specimen mass density. The imaging of thick specimens is complicated by the large fraction of multiple scattering which gives rise to incoherent and partially coherent image components. Here we investigate the mechanism of image formation for thick biological specimens at 200 and 300 keV in order to resolve the coherent scattering component from the incoherent (multiple scattering) components. Two techniques were used: electron energy-loss spectroscopic imaging (ESI) and exit wavefront reconstruction using a through-focus series. Although it is commonly assumed that image formation of thick specimens is dominated by amplitude (absorption) contrast, we have found that for conventionally stained biological specimens phase contrast contributes significantly, and that at resolutions better than approximately 10 nm, superposed phase contrast dominates. It is shown that the decrease in coherent scattering with specimen thickness is directly related to the increase in multiple scattering. It is further shown that exit wavefront reconstruction can exclude the microscope aberrations as well as the multiple scattering component from the image formation. Since most of the inelastic scattering with these thick specimens is actually multiple inelastic scattering, it is demonstrated that exit wavefront reconstruction can act as a partial energy filter. By virtue of excluding the multiple scattering, the 'restored' images display enhanced contrast and resolution. These findings have direct implications for the three-dimensional reconstruction of thick biological specimens, where a simple direct relationship between image intensity and mass density was assumed, and the aberrations were left uncorrected.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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