X-ray diffraction microscopy on frozen hydrated specimens
MetadataShow full item record
X-rays are excellent for imaging thick samples at high resolution because of their large penetration depth compared to electrons and their short wavelength relative to visible light. To image biological material, the absorption contrast of soft X-rays, especially between the carbon and oxygen K-shell absorption edges, can be utilized to give high contrast, high resolution images without the need for stains or labels. Because of radiation damage and the desire for high resolution tomography, live cell imaging is not feasible. However, cells can be frozen in vitrified ice, which reduces the effect of radiation damage while maintaining their natural hydrated state. X-ray diffraction microscopy (XDM) is an imaging technique which eliminates the limitations imposed by current focusing optics simply by removing them entirely. Far-field coherent diffraction intensity patterns are collected on a pixelated detector allowing every scattered photon to be collected within the limits of the detector's efficiency and physical size. An iterative computer algorithm is then used to invert the diffraction intensity into a real space image with both absorption and phase information. This technique transfers the emphasis away from fabrication and alignment of optics, and towards data processing. We have used this method to image a pair of freeze-dried, immunolabeled yeast cells to the highest resolution (13 nm) yet obtained for a whole eukaryotic cell. We discuss successes and challenges in working with frozen hydrated specimens and efforts aimed at high resolution imaging of vitrified eukaryotic cells in 3D.