Infrared nanoscopy and tomography of intracellular structures

K. Kanevche, D. J. Burr, D. J. Nürnberg, P. K. Hass, A. Elsaesser and J. Heberle

Communications Biology 4, 1341 (2021)
Although techniques such as fluorescence-based super-resolution imaging or confocal microscopy simultaneously gather both morphological and chemical data, these techniques often rely on the use of localized and chemically specific markers. To eliminate this flaw, we have developed a method of examining cellular cross sections using the imaging power of scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy at a spatial resolution far beyond the diffraction limit. Herewith, nanoscale surface and volumetric chemical imaging is performed using the intrinsic contrast generated by the characteristic absorption of mid-infrared radiation by the covalent bonds. We employ infrared nanoscopy to study the subcellular structures of eukaryotic (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii) and prokaryotic (Escherichia coli) species, revealing chemically distinct regions within each cell such as the microtubular structure of the flagellum. Serial 100 nm-thick cellular cross-sections were compiled into a tomogram yielding a three-dimensional infrared image of subcellular structure distribution at 20 nm resolution. The presented methodology is able to image biological samples complementing current fluorescence nanoscopy but at less interference due to the low energy of infrared radiation and the absence of labeling.