Soft X-ray tomography to map and quantify organelle interactions at the mesoscale

Structure. 2022 Apr 7;30(4):510-521.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2022.01.006. Epub 2022 Feb 10.


Inter-organelle interactions are a vital part of normal cellular function; however, these have proven difficult to quantify due to the range of scales encountered in cell biology and the throughput limitations of traditional imaging approaches. Here, we demonstrate that soft X-ray tomography (SXT) can be used to rapidly map ultrastructural reorganization and inter-organelle interactions in intact cells. SXT takes advantage of the naturally occurring, differential X-ray absorption of the carbon-rich compounds in each organelle. Specifically, we use SXT to map the spatiotemporal evolution of insulin vesicles and their co-localization and interaction with mitochondria in pancreatic β cells during insulin secretion and in response to different stimuli. We quantify changes in the morphology, biochemical composition, and relative position of mitochondria and insulin vesicles. These findings highlight the importance of a comprehensive and unbiased mapping at the mesoscale to characterize cell reorganization that would be difficult to detect with other existing methodologies.

Keywords: 3D cell mapping; mesoscale analysis; organelle interaction; pancreatic β cell; soft X-ray tomography.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional* / methods
  • Insulin
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Organelles
  • Tomography, X-Ray* / methods


  • Insulin