Journal of microscopy

Towards the imaging of Weibel-Palade body biogenesis by serial block face-scanning electron microscopy.

PMID 25644989


Electron microscopy is used in biological research to study the ultrastructure at high resolution to obtain information on specific cellular processes. Serial block face-scanning electron microscopy is a relatively novel electron microscopy imaging technique that allows three-dimensional characterization of the ultrastructure in both tissues and cells by measuring volumes of thousands of cubic micrometres yet at nanometre-scale resolution. In the scanning electron microscope, repeatedly an image is acquired followed by the removal of a thin layer resin embedded biological material by either a microtome or a focused ion beam. In this way, each recorded image contains novel structural information which can be used for three-dimensional analysis. Here, we explore focused ion beam facilitated serial block face-scanning electron microscopy to study the endothelial cell-specific storage organelles, the Weibel-Palade bodies, during their biogenesis at the Golgi apparatus. Weibel-Palade bodies predominantly contain the coagulation protein Von Willebrand factor which is secreted by the cell upon vascular damage. Using focused ion beam facilitated serial block face-scanning electron microscopy we show that the technique has the sensitivity to clearly reveal subcellular details like mitochondrial cristae and small vesicles with a diameter of about 50 nm. Also, we reveal numerous associations between Weibel-Palade bodies and Golgi stacks which became conceivable in large-scale three-dimensional data. We demonstrate that serial block face-scanning electron microscopy is a promising tool that offers an alternative for electron tomography to study subcellular organelle interactions in the context of a complete cell.

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