Subcellular localization of mycobacteria in tissues and detection of lipid antigens in organelles using cryo-techniques for light and electron microscopy

Curr Opin Microbiol. 2005 Jun;8(3):323-30. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2005.04.014.


The survival of intracellular pathogens within a host is determined by microbial evasion, which can be partially attributed to their subcellular trafficking strategies. Microscopic techniques have become increasingly important in understanding the cell biology of microbial infections. These recently developed techniques can be used for the subcellular localization of antigens not only in cultured cells but also within tissues such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis in lung and Mycobacterium leprae in skin. High-resolution immunofluorescence microscopy can be used in combination with cryo-immunogold electron microscopy using consecutive cryo-sections on the same tissue block forming a direct connection between the two microscopy techniques. The detection of mycobacterial lipid antigens in situ at an ultrastructural level is currently a challenge, but new modifications can be used to address this. These methods might be of interest to microbiologists and cell biologists who study host-pathogen interactions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Bacterial / analysis
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Leprosy / microbiology
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Microbiology / instrumentation*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Mycobacterium leprae / chemistry
  • Mycobacterium leprae / isolation & purification
  • Mycobacterium leprae / ultrastructure
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / chemistry
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / ultrastructure*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / microbiology*


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Lipids