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3D FIB-SEM reconstruction of microtubule–organelle interaction in whole primary mouse β cells


  • Müller A.,
  • Schmidt D.,
  • Xu C. S.,
  • Pang S.,
  • D’Costa J. V.,
  • Kretschmar S.,
  • Münster C.,
  • Kurth T.,
  • Jug F.,
  • Weigert M.,
  • Hess H. F.,
  • Solimena M.


This collaborative work is a good example for how members of our team can collaborate with biologists and technologists to improve the quantitative analysis work required to gain insights into essential processes related to human health and pathology, in this particular case into the subcellular organization of insulin producing β cells.
Microtubules play a major role in intracellular trafficking of vesicles in endocrine cells. Detailed knowledge of microtubule organization and their relation to other cell constituents is crucial for understanding cell function. However, their role in insulin transport and secretion is under debate. Here, we use FIB-SEM to image islet β cells in their entirety with unprecedented resolution. We reconstruct mitochondria, Golgi apparati, centrioles, insulin secretory granules, and microtubules of seven β cells, and generate a comprehensive spatial map of microtubule–organelle interactions. We find that microtubules form nonradial networks that are predominantly not connected to either centrioles or endomembranes. Microtubule number and length, but not microtubule polymer density, vary with glucose stimulation. Furthermore, insulin secretory granules are enriched near the plasma membrane, where they associate with microtubules. In summary, we provide the first 3D reconstructions of complete microtubule networks in primary mammalian cells together with evidence regarding their importance for insulin secretory granule positioning and thus their supportive role in insulin secretion.

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