Cell Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 959 Views Feb 20, 2024

Mechanosensory organelles (MOs) are specialized subcellular entities where force-sensitive channels and supporting structures (e.g., microtubule cytoskeleton) are organized in an orderly manner. The delicate structure of MOs needs to be resolved to understand the mechanisms by which they detect forces and how they are formed. Here, we describe a protocol that allows obtaining detailed information about the nanoscopic ultrastructure of fly MOs by using serial section electron tomography (SS-ET). To preserve fine structural details, the tissues are cryo-immobilized using a high-pressure freezer followed by freeze-substitution at low temperature and embedding in resin at room temperature. Then, sample sections are prepared and used to acquire the dual-axis tilt series images, which are further processed for tomographic reconstruction. Finally, tomograms of consecutive sections are combined into a single larger volume using microtubules as fiducial markers. Using this protocol, we managed to reconstruct the sensory organelles, which provide novel molecular insights as to how fly mechanosensory organelles work and are formed. Based on our experience, we think that, with minimal modifications, this protocol can be adapted to a wide range of applications using different cell and tissue samples.

Key features

• Resolving the high-resolution 3D ultrastructure of subcellular organelles using serial section electron tomography (SS-ET).

• Compared with single-axis tilt series, dual-axis tilt series provides a much wider coverage of Fourier space, improving resolution and features in the reconstructed tomograms.

• The use of high-pressure freezing and freeze-substitution maximally preserves the fine structural details.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 2763 Views Jul 5, 2021

Mammalian orthoreoviruses (reoviruses) are nonenveloped, double-stranded RNA viruses that replicate and assemble in cytoplasmic membranous organelles called viral inclusions (VIs). To define the cellular compartments involved in nonlytic reovirus egress, we imaged viral egress in infected, nonpolarized human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMECs). Electron and confocal microscopy showed that reovirus mature virions are recruited from VIs to modified lysosomes termed sorting organelles (SOs). Later in infection, membranous carriers (MCs) emerge from SOs and transport new virions to the plasma membrane for nonlytic egress. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) combined with electron tomography (ET) and three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction revealed that these compartments are connected and form the exit pathway. Connections are established by channels through which mature virions are transported from VIs to MCs. In the last step, MCs travel across the cytoplasm and fuse with the plasma membrane, which facilitates reovirus egress. This bio-protocol describes the combination of imaging approaches (TEM, ET, and 3D reconstruction) to analyze reovirus egress zones. The spatial information present in the 3D reconstructions, along with the higher resolution relative to 2D projections, allowed us to identify components of a new nonlytic viral egress pathway.

0 Q&A 3178 Views Jun 5, 2021

Over the years, studying the ultrastructure of the eukaryotic cilia/flagella using electron microscopy (EM) has contributed significantly toward our understanding of ciliary function. Major complexes in the cilia, such as inner and outer dynein arms, radial spokes, and dynein regulatory complexes, were originally discovered by EM. Classical resin-embedding EM or cryo-electron tomography can be performed directly on the isolated cilia or in some cases, cilia directly attached to the cell body. Recently, single particle cryo-EM has emerged as a powerful structural technique to elucidate high-resolution structures of macromolecular complexes; however, single particle cryo-EM requires non-overlapping complexes, i.e., the doublet microtubule of the cilia. Here, we present a protocol to separate the doublet microtubule from the isolated cilia bundle of two species, Tetrahymena thermophila and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, using ATP reactivation and sonication. Our approach produces good distribution and random orientation of the doublet microtubule fragments, which is suitable for single particle cryo-EM analysis.

0 Q&A 16883 Views May 20, 2018
Skeletal muscle is the most abundant tissue in the human body and regulates a variety of functions including locomotion and whole-body metabolism. Skeletal muscle has a plethora of mitochondria, the organelles that are essential for aerobic generation of ATP which provides the chemical energy to fuel vital functions such as contraction. The number of mitochondria in skeletal muscle and their function decline with normal aging and in various neuromuscular diseases and in catabolic conditions such as cancer, starvation, denervation, and immobilization. Moreover, compromised mitochondrial function is also associated with metabolic disorders including type 2 diabetes mellitus. It is now clear that maintaining mitochondrial content and function in skeletal muscle is vital for sustained health throughout the lifespan. While a number of staining methods are available to study mitochondria, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is still the most important method to study mitochondrial structure and health in skeletal muscle. It provides critical information about mitochondrial content, cristae density, organization, formation of autophagosomes, and any other abnormalities commonly observed in various disease conditions. In this article, we describe a detailed protocol for sample preparation and analysis of mouse skeletal muscle mitochondria by TEM.
0 Q&A 12926 Views Sep 20, 2017
We describe a streamlined method that enables the quick observation of yeast ultrastructure by electron microscopy (EM). Yeast cells are high-pressure frozen, freeze-fractured to cut across the cytoplasm, and freeze-etched to sublimate ice in the cytosol and the organelle lumen. The cellular structures delineated by these procedures are coated by a thin layer of platinum and carbon deposited by vacuum evaporation, and this platinum–carbon layer, or replica, is observed by transmission EM. The method differs from the deep-etching of pre-extracted samples in that intact live cells are processed without any chemical treatment. Lipid droplets made of unetchable lipid esters are observed most prominently, but other organelles–the nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi, vacuoles, mitochondria–and their mutual relationships can be analyzed readily. It is of note that the entire procedure, from quick-freezing to EM observation, can be performed within a day.

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