X-rays Reveal the Internal Structure of Keratin Bundles in Whole Cells Academic Article uri icon


  • In recent years, X-ray imaging of biological cells has emerged as a complementary alternative to fluorescence and electron microscopy. Different techniques were established and successfully applied to macromolecular assemblies and structures in cells. However, while the resolution is reaching the nanometer scale, the dose is increasing. It is essential to develop strategies to overcome or reduce radiation damage. Here we approach this intrinsic problem by combing two different X-ray techniques, namely ptychography and nanodiffraction, in one experiment and on the same sample. We acquire low dose ptychography overview images of whole cells at a resolution of 65 nm. We subsequently record high-resolution nanodiffraction data from regions of interest. By comparing images from the two modalities, we can exclude strong effects of radiation damage on the specimen. From the diffraction data we retrieve quantitative structural information from intracellular bundles of keratin intermediate filaments such as a filament radius of 5 nm, hexagonal geometric arrangement with an interfilament distance of 14 nm and bundle diameters on the order of 70 nm. Thus, we present an appealing combined approach to answer a broad range of questions in soft-matter physics, biophysics and biology.


  • Hémonnot, Clément YJ
  • Reinhardt, Juliane
  • Saldanha, Oliva
  • Patommel, Jens
  • Graceffa, Rita
  • Weinhausen, Britta
  • Burghammer, Manfred
  • Schroer, Christian G
  • Köster, Sarah

publication date

  • 2016