Challenges of using Expansion Microscopy for super-resolved imaging of cellular organelles

in: ChemBioChem (2021)
Büttner, Maximilian; Lagerholm, B. Christoffer; Waithe, Dominic; Galiani, Silvia; Schliebs, Wolfgang; Erdmann, Ralf; Eggeling, Christian; Reglinski, Katharina
Expansion Microscopy (ExM) has been successfully used to improve the spatial resolution when imaging tissues by optical microscopy. In ExM, proteins of a fixed sample are crosslinked to a swellable acrylamide gel, which enlarges when incubated in water. Therefore, ExM allows to resolve enlarged subcellular structures, otherwise hidden to standard confocal microscopy. Here we aim to validate ExM for the study of peroxisomes, mitochondria, nuclei and the plasma membrane. Upon comparison of the expansion factors of these cellular compartments in HEK293 cells within the same gel, we found significant differences in expansion factors of a factor of above 2. For peroxisomes, the expansion factor differed even between peroxisomal membrane and matrix marker, which underlines the need for a thorough validation of expansion factors of this powerful technique. We further give an overview of possible quantification methods for the determination of expansion factors of intracellular organelles, and we highlight some potentials and challenges.

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