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Viewing plant cells in 3-D (no glasses required)
Date:6/9/2014

Plant cells are beginning to look a lot different to Dr. A. Bruce Cahoon and his colleagues at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). They've adopted a new approach that combines the precision of an ion beam with the imaging capabilities of an electron beam to zoom in at micron-level resolution. Scientists who work with nanodevices have used focused ion beamscanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM) for decades, but it is only recently that biologists have begun to explore its capabilities. The researchers at MTSU are the first to optimize its use for plant cell imaging.

Their results are beautiful grayscale mosaics of plant organelles. Large, dark vacuoles bordered by light, oval-shaped chloroplasts resting along thick, smooth cell walls. Plump berry-like lipid bodies surrounding the round nucleus. Endoplasmic reticulum, protein bodies, and other uniquely shaped structures squeezing together like flexible tiles within the cells. The researchers produced a stunning selection of images as they developed methods to work with seed, leaf, stem, root, and petal cell types of Arabidopsis thaliana. Cahoon and his colleagues describe their methods and results, along with 3D renderings and video, in the June issue of Applications in Plant Sciences.

"We attended an open presentation about FIB-SEM held at MTSU about its capabilities, and we immediately thought of using it on plant tissues," explains Cahoon. The ion beam slices thin sections of a sample, which are each captured in an image by the scanning electron beam. The images of over 100 sections, just nanometers thick, are combined to construct a richly detailed three-dimensional figure.

"Certain aspects were very attractive, but it did mean we would have to step back and innovate the technology for plant tissues," says Cahoon. Fortunately, the researchers were able to benefit from the work of
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Contact: Beth Parada
apps@botany.org
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert  

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