A 3D Cartographic Description of the Cell by Cryo Soft X-ray Tomography

Groen, Johannes; Sorrentino, Andrea; Aballe, Lucía; Oliete, Robert; Valcárcel, Ricardo; Okolo, Chidinma; Kounatidis, Ilias; Harkiolaki, Maria; Pérez-Berná, Ana Joaquina and Pereiro, Eva (2021). A 3D Cartographic Description of the Cell by Cryo Soft X-ray Tomography. Journal of Visualized Experiments(169), article no. e62190.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3791/62190


Imaging techniques are fundamental in order to understand cell organization and machinery in biological research and the related fields. Among these techniques, cryo soft X-ray tomography (SXT) allows imaging whole cryo-preserved cells in the water window X-ray energy range (284-543 eV), in which carbon structures have intrinsically higher absorption than water, allowing the 3D reconstruction of the linear absorption coefficient of the material contained in each voxel. Quantitative structural information at the level of whole cells up to 10 µm thick is then achievable this way, with high throughput and spatial resolution down to 25-30 nm half-pitch. Cryo-SXT has proven itself relevant to current biomedical research, providing 3D information on cellular infection processes (virus, bacteria, or parasites), morphological changes due to diseases (such as recessive genetic diseases) and helping us understand drug action at the cellular level, or locating specific structures in the 3D cellular environment. In addition, by taking advantage of the tunable wavelength at synchrotron facilities, spectro-microscopy or its 3D counterpart, spectro-tomography, can also be used to image and quantify specific elements in the cell, such as calcium in biomineralization processes. Cryo-SXT provides complementary information to other biological imaging techniques such as electron microscopy, X-ray fluorescence or visible light fluorescence, and is generally used as a partner method for 2D or 3D correlative imaging at cryogenic conditions in order to link function, location, and morphology.

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