[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In tomography, the quality of the reconstruction is essential because the complete cascade of the subsequent analysis is based on it. To date, weighted back-projection (WBP) has been the most commonly used technique due to its versatility and performance in sub-tomogram averaging. Here we present super-sampling SART that is based on the simultaneous algebraic reconstruction technique. While algebraic reconstruction techniques typically produce better contrast and lately showed a significant improvement in terms of processing speed, sub-tomogram averages derived from those reconstructions were inferior in resolution compared to those derived from WBP data. Super-sampling SART, however, outperforms both in term of contrast and the resolution achieved in sub-tomogram averaging several other tested methods and in particular WBP. The main feature of super-sampling SART, as the name implies, is the super-sampling option - by which parameter-based up-sampling and down-sampling are used to reduce artifacts. In particular, the aliasing that is omnipresent in the reconstruction can be practically eliminated without a significant increase in the computational time. Furthermore, super-sampling SART reaches convergence within a single iteration, making the processing time comparable to WBP, and eliminating the ambiguity of parameter-controlled convergence times. We find that grouping of projections increases the contrast, while when projections are used individually the resolution can be maximized. Using sub-tomogram averaging of ribosomes as a test case, we show that super-sampling SART achieves equal or better sub-tomogram averaging results than WBP, which is of particular importance in cryo-electron tomography.
Journal of Structural Biology 10/2014; · 3.37 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryo-electron tomography provides a snapshot of the cellular proteome. With template matching, the spatial positions of various macromolecular complexes within their native cellular context can be detected. However, the growing awareness of the reference bias introduced by the cross-correlation based approaches, and more importantly the lack of a reliable confidence measurement in the selection of these macromolecular complexes, has restricted the use of these applications. Here we propose a heuristic, in which the reference bias is measured in real space in an analogous way to the R-free value in X-ray crystallography. We measure the reference bias within the mask used to outline the area of the template, and do not modify the template itself. The heuristic works by splitting the mask into a working and a testing area in a volume ratio of 9:1. While the working area is used during the calculation of the cross-correlation function, the information from both areas is explored to calculate the M-free score. We show using artificial data, that the M-free score gives a reliable measure for the reference bias. The heuristic can be applied in template matching and in sub-tomogram averaging. We further test the applicability of the heuristic in tomograms of purified macromolecules, and tomograms of whole Mycoplasma cells.
Journal of Structural Biology 07/2014; · 3.37 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Correlative microscopy incorporates the specificity of fluorescent protein labeling into high-resolution electron micrographs. Several approaches exist for correlative microscopy, most of which have used the green fluorescent protein (GFP) as the label for light microscopy. Here we use chemical tagging and synthetic fluorophores instead, in order to achieve protein-specific labeling, and to perform multicolor imaging. We show that synthetic fluorophores preserve their post-embedding fluorescence in the presence of uranyl acetate. Post-embedding fluorescence is of such quality that the specimen can be prepared with identical protocols for scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM); this is particularly valuable when singular or otherwise difficult samples are examined. We show that synthetic fluorophores give bright, well-resolved signals in super-resolution light microscopy, enabling us to superimpose light microscopic images with a precision of up to 25 nm in the x-y plane on electron micrographs. To exemplify the preservation quality of our new method we visualize the molecular arrangement of cadherins in adherens junctions of mouse epithelial cells.
Journal of Structural Biology 05/2014; · 3.37 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The centromeric histone H3 variant centromeric protein A (CENP-A), whose sequence is the least conserved among all histone variants, is responsible for specifying the location of the centromere. Here, we present a comprehensive study of CENP-A nucleosome arrays by cryo-electron tomography. We see that CENP-A arrays have different biophysical properties than canonical ones under low ionic conditions, as they are more condensed with a 20% smaller average nearest-neighbor distance and a 30% higher nucleosome density. We find that CENP-A nucleosomes have a predominantly crossed DNA entry/exit site that is narrowed on average by 8°, and they have a propensity to stack face to face. We therefore propose that CENP-A induces geometric constraints at the nucleosome DNA entry/exit site to bring neighboring nucleosomes into close proximity. This specific property of CENP-A may be responsible for generating a fundamental process that contributes to increased chromatin fiber compaction that is propagated under physiological conditions to form centromeric chromatin.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryo-electron tomography of vitreous sections is currently the only method for visualizing the eukaryotic ultrastructure at close to native state with molecular resolution. Here, we describe the detailed procedure of how to prepare suitable vitreous sections from mammalian skin for cryo-electron tomography, how to align the projection images of the tilt-series, and finally how to perform sub-tomogram averaging on macromolecular complexes with periodic arrangement such as desmosomes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Yeast prions constitute a "protein-only" mechanism of inheritance that is widely deployed by wild yeast to create diverse phenotypes. One of the best-characterized prions, [PSI(+)], is governed by a conformational change in the prion domain of Sup35, a translation-termination factor. When this domain switches from its normal soluble form to an insoluble amyloid, the ensuing change in protein synthesis creates new traits. Two factors make these traits heritable: (i) the amyloid conformation is self-templating; and (ii) the protein-remodeling factor heat-shock protein (Hsp)104 (acting together with Hsp70 chaperones) partitions the template to daughter cells with high fidelity. Prions formed by several other yeast proteins create their own phenotypes but share the same mechanistic basis of inheritance. Except for the amyloid fibril itself, the cellular architecture underlying these protein-based elements of inheritance is unknown. To study the 3D arrangement of prion assemblies in their cellular context, we examined yeast [PSI(+)] prions in the native, hydrated state in situ, taking advantage of recently developed methods for cryosectioning of vitrified cells. Cryo-electron tomography of the vitrified sections revealed the prion assemblies as aligned bundles of regularly spaced fibrils in the cytoplasm with no bounding structures. Although the fibers were widely spaced, other cellular complexes, such as ribosomes, were excluded from the fibril arrays. Subtomogram image averaging, made possible by the organized nature of the assemblies, uncovered the presence of an additional array of densities between the fibers. We suggest these structures constitute a self-organizing mechanism that coordinates fiber deposition and the regulation of prion inheritance.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2012; 109(37):14906-11. · 9.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: CoPt-C binary alloys have been fabricated by focused-electron-beam-induced deposition by the simultaneous use of Co₂(CO)₈ and (CH₃)₃CH₃C₅H₄Pt as precursor gases. The alloys are made of CoPt nanoparticles embedded in a carbonaceous matrix. TEM investigations show that as-grown samples are in an amorphous phase. By means of a room temperature low-energy electron irradiation treatment the CoPt nanoparticles transform into face-centered tetragonal L1₀ nanocrystallites. In parallel, the system undergoes a transition from a superparamagnetic to a ferromagnetic state at room temperature. By variation of the post-growth irradiation dose the electrical and magneto-transport properties of the alloy can be continuously tuned.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: How a long strand of genomic DNA is compacted into a mitotic chromosome remains one of the basic questions in biology. The nucleosome fibre, in which DNA is wrapped around core histones, has long been assumed to be folded into a 30-nm chromatin fibre and further hierarchical regular structures to form mitotic chromosomes, although the actual existence of these regular structures is controversial. Here, we show that human mitotic HeLa chromosomes are mainly composed of irregularly folded nucleosome fibres rather than 30-nm chromatin fibres. Our comprehensive and quantitative study using cryo-electron microscopy and synchrotron X-ray scattering resolved the long-standing contradictions regarding the existence of 30-nm chromatin structures and detected no regular structure >11 nm. Our finding suggests that the mitotic chromosome consists of irregularly arranged nucleosome fibres, with a fractal nature, which permits a more dynamic and flexible genome organization than would be allowed by static regular structures.
The EMBO Journal 02/2012; 31(7):1644-53. · 10.75 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The shear-responsive transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 2 (KLF2) is a critical regulator of endothelial gene expression patterns induced by atheroprotective flow. As microRNAs (miRNAs) post-transcriptionally control gene expression in many pathogenic and physiological processes, we investigated the regulation of miRNAs by KLF2 in endothelial cells. KLF2 binds to the promoter and induces a significant upregulation of the miR-143/145 cluster. Interestingly, miR-143/145 has been shown to control smooth muscle cell (SMC) phenotypes; therefore, we investigated the possibility of transport of these miRNAs between endothelial cells and SMCs. Indeed, extracellular vesicles secreted by KLF2-transduced or shear-stress-stimulated HUVECs are enriched in miR-143/145 and control target gene expression in co-cultured SMCs. Extracellular vesicles derived from KLF2-expressing endothelial cells also reduced atherosclerotic lesion formation in the aorta of ApoE(-/-) mice. Combined, our results show that atheroprotective stimuli induce communication between endothelial cells and SMCs through an miRNA- and extracellular-vesicle-mediated mechanism and that this may comprise a promising strategy to combat atherosclerosis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The complex architecture of their structural elements and compartments is a hallmark of eukaryotic cells. The creation of high resolution models of whole cells has been limited by the relatively low resolution of conventional light microscopes and the requirement for ultrathin sections in transmission electron microscopy. We used soft x-ray tomography to study the 3D ultrastructural organization of whole cells of the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii at unprecedented spatial resolution. Intact frozen hydrated cells were imaged using the natural x-ray absorption contrast of the sample without any staining. We applied different fiducial-based and fiducial-less alignment procedures for the 3D reconstructions. The reconstructed 3D volumes of the cells show features down to 30 nm in size. The whole cell tomograms reveal ultrastructural details such as nuclear envelope membranes, thylakoids, basal apparatus, and flagellar microtubule doublets. In addition, the x-ray tomograms provide quantitative data from the cell architecture. Therefore, nanoscale soft x-ray tomography is a new valuable tool for numerous qualitative and quantitative applications in plant cell biology.
PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(12):e53293. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In this study, electron tomograms of plunge-frozen isolated chromatin in both open and compacted form were recorded. We have resolved individual nucleosomes in these tomograms in order to provide a 3D view of the arrangement of nucleosomes within chromatin fibers at different compaction states. With an optimized template matching procedure we obtained accurate positions and orientations of nucleosomes in open chromatin in "low-salt" conditions (5 mM NaCl). The mean value of the planar angle between three consecutive nucleosomes is 70°, and the mean center-to-center distance between consecutive nucleosomes is 22.3 nm. Since the template matching approach was not effective in crowded conditions, for nucleosome detection in compact fibers (40 mM NaCl and 1 mM MgCl(2)) we developed the nucleosome detection procedure based on the watershed algorithm, followed by sub-tomogram alignment, averaging, and classification by Principal Components Analysis. We find that in compact chromatin the nucleosomes are arranged with a predominant face-to-face stacking organization, which has not been previously shown for native isolated chromatin. Although the path of the DNA cannot be directly seen in compact conditions, it is evident that the nucleosomes stack with their dyad axis aligned in forming a "double track" conformation which is a consequence of DNA joining adjacent nucleosome stacks. Our data suggests that nucleosome stacking is an important mechanism for generating chromatin compaction in vivo.
Journal of Structural Biology 11/2011; 178(2):207-14. · 3.37 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Binary systems of Pt-Si are prepared by electron-beam-induced deposition using the two precursors, trimethyl(methylcyclopentadienyl)platinum(IV) (MeCpPt(Me)(3)) and neopentasilane (Si(SiH(3))(4)), simultaneously. By varying the relative flux of the two precursors during deposition, we are able to study composites containing platinum and silicon in different ratios by means of energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, electrical transport measurements, and transmission electron microscopy. The results show strong evidence for the formation of a binary, metastable Pt(2)Si(3) phase, leading to a maximum in the conductivity for a Si/Pt ratio of 3:2.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chromatin folding in eukaryotes fits the genome into the limited volume of the cell nucleus. Formation of higher-order chromatin structures attenuates DNA accessibility, thus contributing to the control of essential genome functions such as transcription, DNA replication, and repair. The 30-nm fiber is thought to be the first hierarchical level of chromatin folding, but the nucleosome arrangement in the compact 30-nm fiber was previously unknown. We used cryoelectron tomography of vitreous sections to determine the structure of the compact, native 30-nm fiber of avian erythrocyte nuclei. The predominant geometry of the 30-nm fiber revealed by subtomogram averaging is a left-handed two-start helix with approximately 6.5 nucleosomes per 11 nm, in which the nucleosomes are juxtaposed face-to-face but are shifted off their superhelical axes with an axial translation of approximately 3.4 nm and an azimuthal rotation of approximately 54°. The nucleosomes produce a checkerboard pattern when observed in the direction perpendicular to the fiber axis but are not interdigitated. The nucleosome packing within the fibers shows larger center-to-center internucleosomal distances than previously anticipated, thus excluding the possibility of core-to-core interactions, explaining how transcription and regulation factors can access nucleosomes.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10/2011; 108(41):16992-7. · 9.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The cytoplasmic surface of intercellular junctions is a complex network of molecular interactions that link the extracellular region of the desmosomal cadherins with the cytoskeletal intermediate filaments. Although 3D structures of the major plaque components are known, the overall architecture remains unknown. We used cryoelectron tomography of vitreous sections from human epidermis to record 3D images of desmosomes in vivo and in situ at molecular resolution. Our results show that the architecture of the cytoplasmic surface of the desmosome is a 2D interconnected quasiperiodic lattice, with a similar spatial organization to the extracellular side. Subtomogram averaging of the plaque region reveals two distinct layers of the desmosomal plaque: a low-density layer closer to the membrane and a high-density layer further away from the membrane. When combined with a heuristic, allowing simultaneous constrained fitting of the high-resolution structures of the major plaque proteins (desmoplakin, plakophilin, and plakoglobin), it reveals their mutual molecular interactions and explains their stoichiometry. The arrangement suggests that alternate plakoglobin-desmoplakin complexes create a template on which desmosomal cadherins cluster before they stabilize extracellularly by binding at their N-terminal tips. Plakophilins are added as a molecular reinforcement to fill the gap between the formed plaque complexes and the plasma membrane.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 04/2011; 108(16):6480-5. · 9.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Classification of electron sub-tomograms is a challenging task, due the missing-wedge and the low signal-to-noise ratio of the data. Classification algorithms tend to classify data according to their orientation to the missing-wedge, rather than to the underlying signal. Here we use a neural network approach, called the Kernel Density Estimator Self-Organizing Map (KerDenSOM3D), which we have implemented in three-dimensions (3D), also having compensated for the missing-wedge, and we comprehensively compare it to other classification methods. For this purpose, we use various simulated macromolecules, as well as tomographically reconstructed in vitro GroEL and GroEL/GroES molecules. We show that the performance of this classification method is superior to previously used algorithms. Furthermore, we show how this algorithm can be used to provide an initial cross-validation of template-matching approaches. For the example of sub-tomogram classification extracted from cellular tomograms of Mycoplasma pneumonia and Spiroplasma melliferum cells, we show the bias of template-matching, and by using differing search and classification areas, we demonstrate how the bias can be significantly reduced.
Journal of Structural Biology 03/2011; 174(3):494-504. · 3.37 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have fabricated Pt-containing granular metals by focused electron beam
induced deposition from the $(CH_3)_3CH_3C_5H_4Pt$ precursor gas. The granular
metals are made of platinum nanocrystallites embedded in a carbonaceous matrix.
We have exposed the as-grown nanocomposites to low energy electron beam
irradiation and we have measured the electrical conductivity as a function of
the irradiation dose. Postgrowth electron beam irradiation transforms the
matrix microstructure and thus the strength of the tunneling coupling between
Pt nanocrystallites. For as-grown samples (weak tunnel coupling regime) we find
that the temperature dependence of the electrical conductivity follows the
stretched exponential behavior characteristic of the correlated variable-range
hopping transport regime. For briefly irradiated samples (strong tunnel
coupling regime) the electrical conductivity is tuned across the
metal-insulator transition. For long-time irradiated samples the electrical
conductivity behaves like that of a metal. In order to further analyze changes
of the microstructure as a function of the electron irradiation dose we have
carried out transmission electron microscope (TEM), micro-Raman and atomic
force microscopy (AFM) investigations. TEM pictures reveal that the
crystallites' size of long-time irradiated samples is larger than that of
as-grown samples. Furthermore we do not have evidence of microstructural
changes in briefly irradiated samples. By means of micro-Raman we find that by
increasing the irradiation dose the matrix changes following a graphitization
trajectory between amorphous carbon and nanocrystalline graphite. Finally, by
means of AFM measurements we observe a reduction of the volume of the samples
with increasing irradiation time which we attribute to the removal of carbon
Journal of Applied Physics 01/2011; 109(6):063175. · 2.19 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Complexes of OprM and MexA, two proteins of the MexA-MexB-OprM multidrug efflux pump from Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic Gram-negative bacterium, were reconstituted into proteoliposomes by detergent removal. Stacks of protein layers with a constant height of 21nm, separated by lipid bilayers, were obtained at stoichiometry of 1:1 (w/w). Using cryo-electron microscopy and tomography, we showed that these protein layers were composed of MexA-OprM complexes self-assembled into regular arrays. Image processing of extracted sub-tomograms depicted the architecture of the bipartite complex sandwiched between two lipid bilayers, representing an environment close to that of the native whole pump (i.e. anchored between outer and inner membranes of P. aeruginosa). The MexA-OprM complex appeared as a cylindrical structure in which we were able to identify the OprM molecule and the MexA moiety. MexA molecules have a cylindrical shape prolonging the periplasmic helices of OprM, and widening near the lipid bilayer. The flared part is likely composed of two MexA domains adjacent to the lipid bilayer, although their precise organization was not reachable mainly due to their flexibility. Moreover, the intermembrane distance of 21nm indicated that the height of the bipartite complex is larger than that of the tripartite AcrA-AcrB-TolC built-up model in which TolC and AcrB are docked into contact. We proposed a model of MexA-OprM taking into account features of previous models based on AcrA-AcrB-TolC and our structural results providing clues to a possible mechanism of tripartite system assembly.
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 10/2010; 1798(10):1953-60. · 4.66 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The robust alignment of tilt-series collected for cryo-electron tomography in the absence of fiducial markers, is a problem that, especially for tilt-series of vitreous sections, still represents a significant challenge. Here we present a complete software package that implements a cross-correlation-based procedure that tracks similar image features that are present in several micrographs and explores them implicitly as substitutes for fiducials like gold beads and quantum dots. The added value compared to previous approaches, is that the algorithm explores a huge number of random positions, which are tracked on several micrographs, while being able to identify trace failures, using a cross-validation procedure based on the 3D marker model of the tilt-series. Furthermore, this method allows the reliable identification of areas which behave as a rigid body during the tilt-series and hence addresses specific difficulties for the alignment of vitreous sections, by correcting practical caveats. The resulting alignments can attain sub-pixel precision at the local level and is able to yield a substantial number of usable tilt-series (around 60%). In principle, the algorithm has the potential to run in a fully automated fashion, and could be used to align any tilt-series directly from the microscope. Finally, we have significantly improved the user interface and implemented the source code on the graphics processing unit (GPU) to accelerate the computations.
Journal of Structural Biology 04/2010; 170(1):117-26. · 3.37 Impact Factor