History of the Electron Microscope in Cell Biology

Abstract

In the years following World War II there was an explosion in the biological sciences with the rapid emergence of cell biology, molecular biology and biophysics. These events were affected by the development and use of new technologies for cellular fractionation and imaging, specifically the electron microscope, which provided a resolution, that is, unobtainable with light microscopes. Electron microscopes made visible the fine structure of cells and their organelles, the structure of viruses. Now cryo‐electron microscopy is emerging as a key tool to visualize and localize the proteins in an entire cell, the organization of actin filaments in the cytoskeleton, and molecular complexes such as nuclear pores.

Keywords: transmission electron microscope; scanning electron microscope; cryo‐electron microscopy; cell ultrastructure; structural biology

Figure 1.

TEM of mouse cerebellum. v, neurotransport vesicles; m, mitochondria; my, myelin sheath; n, nerve fibre and sj, synaptic junction. Magnification bar equals 500 nm. Image obtained by Nicki Watson, Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and reproduced with permission.

Figure 2.

TEM of cultured cell line. Mouse 3T3 control cells. m, mitochondria; n, nucleus; G, Golgi complex; np, nuclear pores and er, endoplasmic reticulum. Magnification bar equals 500 nm. Image obtained by Nicki Watson, Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and reproduced with permission.

Figure 3.

TEM of mouse skeletal muscle. A, A‐band; M, M‐line; Z, Z‐disk; I, I‐band; H, H‐band; m, mitochondria; Sr, sarcoplasmic reticulum and Ts, T‐system. Magnification bar equals 500 nm. Image obtained by Nicki Watson, Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and reproduced with permission.

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How to Cite close
Masters, Barry R(Sep 2009) History of the Electron Microscope in Cell Biology. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021539]