[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The human glomerulus is the primary filtration unit of the kidney, and contains the Glomerular Filtration Barrier (GFB). The GFB had been thought to comprise 3 layers - the endothelium, the basement membrane and the podocyte foot processes. However, recent studies have suggested that at least two additional layers contribute to the function of the GFB, the endothelial glycocalyx on the vascular side, and the sub-podocyte space on the urinary side. To investigate the structure of these additional layers is difficult as it requires three-dimensional reconstruction of delicate sub-microscopic (<1 mum) cellular and extracellular elements.
Here we have combined three different advanced electron microscopic techniques that cover multiple orders of magnitude of volume sampled, with a novel staining methodology (Lanthanum Dysprosium Glycosaminoglycan adhesion, or LaDy GAGa), to determine the structural basis of these two additional layers. Serial Block Face Scanning Electron Microscopy (SBF-SEM) was used to generate a 3-D image stack with a volume of a 5.3 x 105 mum3 volume of a whole kidney glomerulus (13% of glomerular volume). Secondly, Focused Ion Beam milling Scanning Electron Microscopy (FIB-SEM) was used to image a filtration region (48 mum3 volume). Lastly Transmission Electron Tomography (Tom-TEM) was performed on a 0.3 mum3 volume to identify the fine structure of the glycocalyx.
Tom-TEM clearly showed 20 nm fibre spacing in the glycocalyx, within a limited field of view. FIB-SEM demonstrated, in a far greater field of view, how the glycocalyx structure related to fenestrations and the filtration slits, though without the resolution of TomTEM. SBF-SEM was able to determine the extent of the sub-podocyte space and glycocalyx coverage, without additional heavy metal staining. Neither SBF- nor FIB-SEM suffered the anisotropic shrinkage under the electron beam that is seen with Tom-TEM.
These images demonstrate that the three dimensional structure of the GFB can be imaged, and investigated from the whole glomerulus to the fine structure of the glycocalyx using three dimensional electron microscopy techniques. This should allow the identification of structural features regulating physiology, and their disruption in pathological states, aiding the understanding of kidney disease.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cell-directed deposition of aligned collagen fibrils during corneal embryogenesis is poorly understood, despite the fact that it is the basis for the formation of a corneal stroma that must be transparent to visible light and biomechanically stable. Previous studies of the structural development of the specialized matrix in the cornea have been restricted to examinations of tissue sections by conventional light or electron microscopy. Here, we use volume scanning electron microscopy, with sequential removal of ultrathin surface tissue sections achieved either by ablation with a focused ion beam or by serial block face diamond knife microtomy, to examine the microanatomy of the cornea in three dimensions and in large tissue volumes. The results show that corneal keratocytes occupy a significantly greater tissue volume than was previously thought, and there is a clear orthogonality in cell and matrix organization, quantifiable by Fourier analysis. Three-dimensional reconstructions reveal actin-associated tubular cell protrusions, reminiscent of filopodia, but extending more than 30 µm into the extracellular space. The highly extended network of these membrane-bound structures mirrors the alignment of collagen bundles and emergent lamellae and, we propose, plays a fundamental role in dictating the orientation of collagen in the developing cornea.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 01/2014; · 9.74 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Type VI collagen is a primary component of the extracellular matrix of many connective tissues. It can form distinct aggregates depending on tissue structure, chemical environment, and physiology. In the current study we examine the ultrastructure and mode of aggregation of type VI collagen molecules in the human trabecular meshwork.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The chemical composition and sulfur (S) speciation of developing chick corneas at embryonic days 12, 14, and 16 were investigated using synchrotron scanning x-ray fluorescence microscopy and x-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy. The aim was to develop techniques for the analysis of bulk tissue and identify critical physicochemical variations that correlate with changes in corneal structure-function relationships. Derived data were subjected to principal component analysis and linear discriminant analysis, which highlighted differences in the elemental and S species composition at different stages of embryonic growth. Notably, distinct elemental compositions of chlorine, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and S altered with development during the transition of the immature opaque cornea to a mature transparent tissue. S structure spectroscopy revealed developmentally regulated alterations in thiols, organic monosulfides, ester sulfate, and inorganic sulfate species. The transient molecular structures and compositional changes reported here provide a deeper understanding of the underlying basis of corneal development during the acquisition of transparency. The experimental and analytical approach is new, to our knowledge, and has wide potential applicability in the life sciences.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Visualising the molecular strands making up the glycocalyx in the lumen of small blood vessels has proved to be difficult using conventional transmission electron microscopy techniques. Images obtained from tissue stained in a variety of ways have revealed a regularity in the organisation of the proteoglycan components of the glycocalyx layer (fundamental spacing about 20 nm), but require a large sample number. Attempts to visualise the glycocalyx face-on (i.e. in a direction perpendicular to the endothelial cell layer in the lumen and directly applicable for permeability modelling) has had limited success (e.g. freeze fracture). A new approach is therefore needed.
Here we demonstrate the effectiveness of using the relatively novel electron microscopy technique of 3D electron tomography on two differently stained glycocalyx preparations. A tannic acid staining method and a novel staining technique using Lanthanum Dysprosium Glycosamino Glycan adhesion (the LaDy GAGa method).
3D electron tomography reveals details of the architecture of the glycocalyx just above the endothelial cell layer. The LaDy GAGa method visually appears to show more complete coverage and more depth than the Tannic Acid staining method.
The tomographic reconstructions show a potentially significant improvement in determining glycocalyx structure over standard transmission electron microscopy.
Microcirculation (New York, N.Y.: 1994) 02/2012; 19(4):343-51. · 2.37 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The glycocalyx or endocapillary layer on the luminal surface of microvessels has a major role in the exclusion of macromolecules from the underlying endothelial cells. Current structural evidence in the capillaries of frog mesentery indicates a regularity in the structure of the glycocalyx, with a center-to-center fiber spacing of 20 nm and a fiber width of 12 nm, which might explain the observed macromolecular filtering properties. In this study, we used electron micrographs of tissues prepared using perfusion fixation and tannic acid treatment. The digitized images were analyzed using autocorrelation to find common spacings and to establish whether similar structures, hence mechanisms, are present in the microvessel glycocalyces of a variety of mammalian tissues. Continuous glycocalyx layers in mammalian microvessels of choroid, renal tubules, glomerulus, and psoas muscle all showed similar lateral spacings at ∼19.5 nm (possibly in a quasitetragonal lattice) and longer spacings above 100 nm. Individual glycocalyx tufts above fenestrations in the first three of these tissues and also in stomach fundus and jejunum showed evidence for similar short-range structural regularity, but with more disorder. The fiber diameter was estimated as 18.8 (± 0.2) nm, but we believe this is an overestimate because of the staining method used. The implications of these findings are discussed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Deficiencies in enzymes involved in proteoglycan (PG) turnover underlie a number of rare mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS), investigations of which can considerably aid understanding of the roles of PGs in corneal matrix biology. Here, the authors analyze novel pathologic changes in MPS VII (Sly syndrome) to determine the nature of PG-collagen associations in stromal ultrastructure.
Transmission electron microscopy and electron tomography were used to investigate PG-collagen architectures and interactions in a cornea obtained at keratoplasty from a 22-year-old man with MPS VII, which was caused by a compound heterozygous mutation in the GUSB gene.
Transmission electron microscopy showed atypical morphology of the epithelial basement membrane and Bowman's layer in MPS VII. Keratocytes were packed with cytoplasmic vacuoles containing abnormal glycosaminoglycan (GAG) material, and collagen fibrils were thinner than in normal cornea and varied considerably throughout anterior (14-32 nm), mid (13-42 nm), and posterior (17-39 nm) regions of the MPS VII stroma. PGs viewed in three dimensions were striking in appearance in that they were significantly larger than PGs in normal cornea and formed highly extended linkages with multiple collagen fibrils.
Cellular changes in the MPS VII cornea resemble those in other MPS. However, the wide range of collagen fibril diameters throughout the stroma and the extensive matrix presence of supranormal-sized PG structures appear to be unique features of this disorder. The findings suggest that the accumulation of stromal chondroitin-, dermatan-, and heparan-sulfate glycosaminoglycans in the absence of β-glucuronidase-mediated degradation can modulate collagen fibrillogenesis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In this protocol, we describe a 3D imaging technique known as 'volume electron microscopy' or 'focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB/SEM)' applied to biological tissues. A scanning electron microscope equipped with a focused gallium ion beam, used to sequentially mill away the sample surface, and a backscattered electron (BSE) detector, used to image the milled surfaces, generates a large series of images that can be combined into a 3D rendered image of stained and embedded biological tissue. Structural information over volumes of tens of thousands of cubic micrometers is possible, revealing complex microanatomy with subcellular resolution. Methods are presented for tissue processing, for the enhancement of contrast with osmium tetroxide/potassium ferricyanide, for BSE imaging, for the preparation and platinum deposition over a selected site in the embedded tissue block, and for sequential data collection with ion beam milling; all this takes approximately 90 h. The imaging conditions, procedures for alternate milling and data acquisition and techniques for processing and partitioning the 3D data set are also described; these processes take approxiamtely 30 h. The protocol is illustrated by application to developing chick cornea, in which cells organize collagen fibril bundles into complex, multilamellar structures essential for transparency in the mature connective tissue matrix. The techniques described could have wide application in a range of fields, including pathology, developmental biology, microstructural anatomy and regenerative medicine.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The spatial distribution of collagen fibrils in the corneal stroma is essential for corneal transparency and is primarily regulated by extrafibrillar proteoglycans, which are multi-functional polymers that interact with hybrid type I/V collagen fibrils. In order to understand more about proteoglycan organisation and collagen associations in the cornea, three-dimensional electron microscopy reconstructions of collagen-proteoglycan interactions in the anterior, mid and posterior stroma from a Chst5 knockout mouse, which lacks a keratan sulphate sulphotransferase, were obtained. Both longitudinal and transverse section show sinuous, oversized proteoglycans with near-periodic, orthogonal off-shoots. In many cases, these proteoglycans traverse over 400nm of interfibrillar space interconnecting over 10 collagen fibrils. The reconstructions suggest that multiple chondroitin sulphate/dermatan sulphate proteoglycans have aggregated laterally and, possibly, end-to-end, with orthogonal extensions protruding from the main electron-dense stained filament. We suggest possible mechanisms as to how sulphation differences may lead to this increase in aggregation of proteoglycans in the Chst5-null mouse corneal stroma and how this relates to proteoglycan packing in healthy corneas.
Journal of Structural Biology 03/2011; 174(3):536-41. · 3.36 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Corneal transparency is fundamental to the visual system, and is directly related to the ordered collagen fibril architecture that the cornea maintains. Proteoglycans, through their protein core and highly anionic glycosaminoglycan side chains, are thought to regulate the collagen organisation in the corneal stroma. To understand the inter-relationships between proteoglycans and collagen fibrils in the cornea, adult mouse corneas were treated with cuprolinic blue and three-dimensional reconstructions of the anterior, mid and posterior corneal stroma were obtained. The reconstructions show regular diameters of collagen fibrils throughout the cornea and uniform interfibrillar spacing within each region. Both longitudinal and transverse reconstructions were obtained to establish a clear picture of proteoglycan organisation, yet no distinct regular pattern or symmetry of proteoglycan orientation was observed. Large, electron-dense proteoglycans (possibly chondroitin sulphate/dermatan sulphate proteoglycans) interconnecting two or often three adjacent collagen fibrils are seen, whilst another sub-population of smaller proteoglycans (of the keratan sulphate variety) interconnect only neighbouring fibrils. The reconstructions suggest a complex interaction between proteoglycans and collagen, which allows for the dynamic control of collagen fibril architecture in the cornea.
Journal of Structural Biology 05/2010; 170(2):392-7. · 3.36 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Interactions between collagens and proteoglycans help define the structure and function of extracellular matrices. The cornea, which contains proteoglycans with keratan sulphate or chondroitin/dermatan sulphate glycosaminoglycan chains, is an excellent model system in which to study collagen-proteoglycan structures and interactions. Here, we present the first three-dimensional electron microscopic reconstructions of the cornea, and these include corneas from which glycosaminoglycans have been selectively removed by enzymatic digestion. Our reconstructions show that narrow collagen fibrils associate with sulphated proteoglycans that appear as extended, variable-length linear structures. The proteoglycan network appears to tether two or more collagen fibrils, and thus organize the matrix with enough spatial specificity to fulfill the requirements for corneal transparency. Based on the data, we propose that the characteristic pseudohexagonal fibril arrangement in cornea is controlled by the balance of a repulsive force arising from osmotic pressure and an attractive force due to the thermal motion of the proteoglycans.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A network of circumferentially oriented collagen fibrils exists in the periphery of the human cornea, and is thought to be pivotal in maintaining corneal biomechanical stability and curvature. However, it is unknown whether or not this key structural arrangement predominates throughout the entire corneal thickness or exists as a discrete feature at a particular tissue depth; or if it incorporates any elastic fibres and how, with respect to tissue depth, the circumcorneal annulus integrates with the orthogonally arranged collagen of the central cornea. To address these issues we performed a three-dimensional investigation of fibrous collagen and elastin architecture in the peripheral and central human cornea using synchrotron X-ray scattering and non-linear microscopy. This showed that the network of collagen fibrils circumscribing the human cornea is located in the posterior one-third of the tissue and is interlaced with significant numbers of mature elastic fibres which mirror the alignment of the collagen. The orthogonal arrangement of collagen in the central cornea is also mainly restricted to the posterior stromal layers. This information will aid the development of corneal biomechanical models aimed at explaining how normal corneal curvature is sustained and further predicting the outcome of surgical procedures.
Journal of Structural Biology 11/2009; 169(3):424-30. · 3.36 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The key question in understanding how force and movement are produced in muscle concerns the nature of the cyclic interaction of myosin molecules with actin filaments. The lever arm of the globular head of each myosin molecule is thought in some way to swing axially on the actin-attached motor domain, thus propelling the actin filament past the myosin filament. Recent X-ray diffraction studies of vertebrate muscle, especially those involving the analysis of interference effects between myosin head arrays in the two halves of the thick filaments, have been claimed to prove that the lever arm moves at the same time as the sliding of actin and myosin filaments in response to muscle length or force steps. It was suggested that the sliding of myosin and actin filaments, the level of force produced and the lever arm angle are all directly coupled and that other models of lever arm movement will not fit the X-ray data. Here, we show that, in addition to interference across the A-band, which must be occurring, the observed meridional M3 and M6 X-ray intensity changes can all be explained very well by the changing diffraction effects during filament sliding caused by heads stereospecifically attached to actin moving axially relative to a population of detached or non-stereospecifically attached heads that remain fixed in position relative to the myosin filament backbone. Crucially, and contrary to previous interpretations, the X-ray interference results provide little direct information about the position of the myosin head lever arm; they are, in fact, reporting relative motor domain movements. The implications of the new interpretation are briefly assessed.
Journal of Molecular Biology 05/2009; 390(2):168-81. · 3.91 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The cornea is the transparent connective tissue window at the front of the eye. In the extracellular matrix of the corneal stroma, hybrid type I/V collagen fibrils are remarkably uniform in diameter at approximately 30 nm and are regularly arranged into a pseudolattice. Fibrils are believed to be kept at defined distances by the influence of proteoglycans. Light entering the cornea is scattered by the collagen fibrils, but their spatial distribution is such that the scattered light interferes destructively in all directions except from the forward direction. In this way, light travels forward through the cornea to reach the retina. In this chapter, we will review the macromolecular components of the corneal stroma, the way they are organized into a stacked lamellar array, and how this organization guarantees corneal transparency.
Advances in protein chemistry and structural biology. 01/2009; 78:25-49.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Myosin binding protein C (MyBP-C) is a component of the thick filament of striated muscle. The importance of this protein is revealed by recent evidence that mutations in the cardiac gene are a major cause of familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Here we investigate the distribution of MyBP-C in the A-bands of cardiac and skeletal muscles and compare this to the A-band structure in cardiac muscle of MyBP-C-deficient mice. We have used a novel averaging technique to obtain the axial density distribution of A-bands in electron micrographs of well-preserved specimens. We show that cardiac and skeletal A-bands are very similar, with a length of 1.58+/-0.01 mum. In normal cardiac and skeletal muscle, the distributions are very similar, showing clearly the series of 11 prominent accessory protein stripes in each half of the A-band spaced axially at 43-nm intervals and starting at the edge of the bare zone. We show by antibody labelling that in cardiac muscle the distal nine stripes are the location of MyBP-C. These stripes are considerably suppressed in the knockout mouse hearts as expected. Myosin heads on the surface of the thick filament in relaxed muscle are thought to be arranged in a three-stranded quasi-helix with a mean 14.3-nm axial cross bridge spacing and a 43 nm helix repeat. Extra "forbidden" meridional reflections, at orders of 43 nm, in X-ray diffraction patterns of muscle have been interpreted as due to an axial perturbation of some levels of myosin heads. However, in the MyBP-C-deficient hearts these extra meridional reflections are weak or absent, suggesting that they are due to MyBP-C itself or to MyBP-C in combination with a head perturbation brought about by the presence of MyBP-C.
Journal of Molecular Biology 10/2008; 384(1):60-72. · 3.91 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The extraction of useful information from recorded diffraction patterns from non-crystalline materials is non-trivial and is not a well defined operation. Unlike protein crystallography where one expects to see well behaved diffraction spots in predictable positions defined by standard space groups, the diffraction patterns from non-crystalline materials are very diverse. They can range from uniaxially oriented fibre patterns which are completely sampled as Bragg peaks, but rotationally averaged around the fibre axis, to fibre patterns that are completely unsampled, to either kind of pattern with considerable axial misalignment (disorientation), to liquid-like order and even to mixtures of these various structure types. In the case of protein crystallography, the specimen is generated artificially and only used if the degree of order is sufficient to yield a three-dimensional density map of high enough resolution to be interpreted sensibly. However, with non-crystalline diffraction, many of the specimens of interest are naturally occurring (e.g. cellulose, rubber, collagen, muscle, hair, silk) and to elucidate their structure it is necessary to extract structural information from the materials as they actually are and to whatever resolution is available. Even when synthetic fibres are generated from purified components (e.g. nylon, polyethylene, DNA, polysaccharides, amyloids etc.) and diffraction occurs to high resolution, it is rarely possible to obtain perfect uniaxial alignment. The CCP13 project was established in the 1990s to generate software which will be generally useful for analysis of non-crystalline diffraction patterns. Various individual programs were written which allowed separate steps in the analysis procedure to be carried out. Many of these programs have now been integrated into a single user-friendly package known as FibreFix, which is freely downloadable from http://www.ccp13.ac.uk. Here the main features of FibreFix are outlined and some of its applications are illustrated.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Low-angle X-ray diffraction patterns from relaxed fruitfly (Drosophila) flight muscle recorded on the BioCat beamline at the Argonne Advanced Photon Source (APS) show many features similar to such patterns from the "classic" insect flight muscle in Lethocerus, the giant water bug, but there is a characteristically different pattern of sampling of the myosin filament layer-lines, which indicates the presence of a superlattice of myosin filaments in the Drosophila A-band. We show from analysis of the structure factor for this lattice that the sampling pattern is exactly as expected if adjacent four-stranded myosin filaments, of repeat 116 nm, are axially shifted in the hexagonal A-band lattice by one-third of the 14.5 nm axial spacing between crowns of myosin heads. In addition, electron micrographs of Drosophila and other flies (e.g. the house fly (Musca) and the flesh fly (Sarcophaga)) combined with image processing confirm that the same A-band superlattice occurs in all of these flies; it may be a general property of the Diptera. The different A-band organisation in flies compared with Lethocerus, which operates at a much lower wing beat frequency (approximately 30 Hz) and requires a warm-up period, may be a way of optimising the myosin and actin filament geometry needed both for stretch activation at the higher wing beat frequencies (50 Hz to 1000 Hz) of flies and their need for a rapid escape response.
Journal of Molecular Biology 10/2006; 361(5):823-38. · 3.91 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Collagen VI is a component of the extracellular matrix that is able to form structural links with cells. Collagen VI monomers cross-link into tetramers that come together to form long molecular chains known as microfibrils. Collagen VI tetramers are also the most likely candidates for the formation of banded aggregates with an axial periodicity of about 105 nm that are seen in the retinas of people suffering from age-related macular degeneration and Sorsby's fundus dystrophy, in the vitreous of patients with full thickness macular holes and in the intervertebral discs of normal individuals. Here, a protocol is developed to carry out a structural comparison between the microfibrils, which are known to be made of collagen VI tetramers, and the banded aggregates. The comparison shows that the banded aggregates are easily explained as being a lateral assembly of microfibrils, thus supporting the hypothesis that they too are made of collagen VI. Understanding the role played by the collagen VI aggregates in normal and pathological conditions will help to throw light on the pathologies with which they are associated.
Journal of Structural Biology 09/2006; 155(2):379-93. · 3.36 Impact Factor