Soft X-ray tomography of cell cell adhension complexes

Soft X-ray Tomography can image cell-cell adhesion complexes at nanometer resolution providing 3D structural information that helps reveal the remaining secrets of these complex intercellular structures.

Cell adhesion is the process by which cells interact with and connect to neighbouring cells via specialized cell surface chemicals. This process can take place either directly between cell surfaces, such as cell junctions, or indirectly, where cells adhere to the surrounding extracellular matrix, a gel-like material holding chemicals released by cells into gaps between them.

Cell adhesion is necessary for cell communication and control, as well as for tissue formation and maintenance. Mechanical interactions between cells and their extracellular matrix (ECM) can impact and regulate cell behaviour and function.

Microscopy is a crucial component of modern research, and researchers utilize it to understand the mechanisms of human health and disease at the cellular level. Microscopy can be used to identify the structure, content, or activity of intercellular junctions while studying them. Several organelles and cellular entities can be seen on a micro- or nanoscale when looking at the (ultra)structure and composition of cells, depending on the resolution of the microscopic method utilized

Soft x-ray tomography (SXT) enables researchers to examine intercellular connections at nanoscale resolution in a near-native condition, as well as recreate the cell’s ultrastructure in 3D. Correlating with light microscopy can make a good technique for studying cell-cell adhesion complexes.

The paper referred to below reviewed relevant imaging techniques in increasing resolution order, including the advantages, limitations, and possibilities to help researchers select the best technique for the problem at hand. It concludes that while cryo-SXT has been used primarily to date for imaging adherent cells cultured on 2D surfaces or in cell suspension, the resolution of SXT is also suitable for studying the adhesion complexes between cells, given its ability to image the plasma membrane.

Microscopic Visualization of Cell-Cell Adhesion Complexes at Micro and Nanoscale

Bieke Vanslembrouck, Jian-Hua-Chen, Jolanda Van Hengel, & Carolyn Larabell