Quantitative 3D elemental microtomography of Cyclotella meneghiniana at 400-nm resolution

Martin D. De Jonge, Christian Holzner, Stephen B. Baines, Benjamin S. Twining, Konstantin Ignatyev, Julia Diaz, Daryl L. Howard, Daniel Legnini, Antonino Miceli, Ian McNulty, Chris J. Jacobsen, Stefan Vogt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


X-ray fluorescence tomography promises to map elemental distributions in unstained and unfixed biological specimens in three dimensions at high resolution and sensitivity, offering unparalleled insight in medical, biological, and environmental sciences. X-ray fluorescence tomography of biological specimens has been viewed as impractical - and perhaps even impossible for routine application - due to the large time required for scanning tomography and significant radiation dose delivered to the specimen during the imaging process. Here, we demonstrate submicron resolution X-ray fluorescence tomography of a whole unstained biological specimen, quantifying three-dimensional distributions of the elements Si, P, S, Cl, K, Ca, Mn, Fe, Cu, and Zn in the freshwater diatom Cyclotella meneghiniana with 400-nm resolution, improving the spatial resolution by over an order of magnitude. The resulting maps faithfully reproduce cellular structure revealing unexpected patterns that may elucidate the role of metals in diatom biology and of diatoms in global element cycles. With anticipated improvements in data acquisition and detector sensitivity, such measurements could become routine in the near future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15676-15680
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 7 2010


  • Diatom
  • Trace element distributions
  • X-ray fluorescence tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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