An open-access volume electron microscopy atlas of whole cells and tissues

Nature. 2021 Nov;599(7883):147-151. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03992-4. Epub 2021 Oct 6.


Understanding cellular architecture is essential for understanding biology. Electron microscopy (EM) uniquely visualizes cellular structures with nanometre resolution. However, traditional methods, such as thin-section EM or EM tomography, have limitations in that they visualize only a single slice or a relatively small volume of the cell, respectively. Focused ion beam-scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM) has demonstrated the ability to image small volumes of cellular samples with 4-nm isotropic voxels1. Owing to advances in the precision and stability of FIB milling, together with enhanced signal detection and faster SEM scanning, we have increased the volume that can be imaged with 4-nm voxels by two orders of magnitude. Here we present a volume EM atlas at such resolution comprising ten three-dimensional datasets for whole cells and tissues, including cancer cells, immune cells, mouse pancreatic islets and Drosophila neural tissues. These open access data (via OpenOrganelle2) represent the foundation of a field of high-resolution whole-cell volume EM and subsequent analyses, and we invite researchers to explore this atlas and pose questions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Datasets as Topic*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Golgi Apparatus / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Interphase
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning* / methods
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning* / standards
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Neuroglia / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Open Access Publishing
  • Organelles / ultrastructure*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / immunology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / ultrastructure
  • Ribosomes / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Vesicles / ultrastructure
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / ultrastructure