Microscopy and Microanalysis

Biological Applications

Chromatic Aberration-Corrected Tilt Series Transmission Electron Microscopy of Nanoparticles in a Whole Mount Macrophage Cell

Jean-Pierre Baudoina1, Joerg R. Jinscheka2, Chris B. Boothroyda3, Rafal E. Dunin-Borkowskia3 and Niels de Jongea1a4 c1

a1 Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232-0615, USA

a2 FEI Company Europe, 5600 KA Eindhoven, The Netherlands

a3 Forschungszentrum Jülich, Ernst Ruska-Centre for Microscopy and Spectroscopy with Electrons (ER-C) and Peter Grünberg Institute (PGI), D-52425 Jülich, Germany

a4 INM-Leibniz Institute for New Materials, D-66123 Saarbrücken, Germany


Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) in combination with electron tomography is widely used to obtain nanometer scale three-dimensional (3D) structural information about biological samples. However, studies of whole eukaryotic cells are limited in resolution and/or contrast on account of the effect of chromatic aberration of the TEM objective lens on electrons that have been scattered inelastically in the specimen. As a result, 3D information is usually obtained from sections and not from whole cells. Here, we use chromatic aberration-corrected TEM to record bright-field TEM images of nanoparticles in a whole mount macrophage cell. Tilt series of images are used to generate electron tomograms, which are analyzed to assess the spatial resolution that can be achieved for different vertical positions in the specimen. The uptake of gold nanoparticles coated with low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is studied. The LDL is found to assemble in clusters. The clusters contain nanoparticles taken up on different days, which are joined without mixing their nanoparticle cargo.

(Received January 11 2013)

(Accepted March 25 2013)

Key words

  • whole eukaryotic cell;
  • low-density lipoprotein;
  • specific labels;
  • gold nanoparticles;
  • tomography;
  • three dimensions;
  • spatial resolution;
  • thick sample