Seeing is believing: The impact of electron microscopy on autophagy research

Eeva Liisa Eskelinen, Fulvio Reggiori, Misuzu Baba, A. Kovács, Per O. Seglen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

137 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Autophagy was first discovered by transmission electron microscopy more than 50 years ago. For decades, electron microscopy was the only way to reliably detect autophagic compartments in cells because no specific protein markers were known. In the 1970s, however, the introduction of biochemical methods enabled quantitative studies of autophagic-lysosomal degradation, and in the 1980s specific biochemical assays for autophagic sequestration became available. Since the identification of autophagy-related genes in the 1990s, combined fluorescence microscopy, biochemical and genetic methods have taken the leading role in autophagy research. However, electron microscopy is still needed to confirm and verify results obtained by other methods, and also to produce novel knowledge that would not be achievable by any other experimental approach. Confocal microscopy, with its ever-improving resolution, is probably the best-suited morphological approach to investigate the dynamic aspects of autophagy. However, for analyzing the ultrastructural details of the many novel organelles and mechanisms involved in specific subtypes of autophagy, the electron microscope is still indispensable. This review will summarize the impact that electron microscopy has had on autophagy research since the discovery of this self-degradation process in the mid-1950s. Astonishingly, some of the "novel" concepts and principles of autophagy, presented in the recent studies, were already proposed several decades ago by the pioneering, accurate and passionate work of virtuoso electron microscopists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)935-956
Number of pages22
JournalAutophagy
Volume7
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011

Fingerprint

Autophagy
Electron Microscopy
Research
Electrons
Transmission Electron Microscopy
Fluorescence Microscopy
Confocal Microscopy
Organelles
Molecular Biology
Genes
Proteins

Keywords

  • Amphisome
  • Autolysosome
  • Autophagosome
  • Cytochemistry
  • Electron microscopy
  • Electron tomography
  • Freeze-fixation
  • Freeze-fracture
  • Freeze-substitution
  • Immunoelectron microscopy
  • Immunogold labeling
  • Morphology
  • PAS
  • Phagophore
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology

Cite this

Seeing is believing : The impact of electron microscopy on autophagy research. / Eskelinen, Eeva Liisa; Reggiori, Fulvio; Baba, Misuzu; Kovács, A.; Seglen, Per O.

In: Autophagy, Vol. 7, No. 9, 09.2011, p. 935-956.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Eskelinen, Eeva Liisa ; Reggiori, Fulvio ; Baba, Misuzu ; Kovács, A. ; Seglen, Per O. / Seeing is believing : The impact of electron microscopy on autophagy research. In: Autophagy. 2011 ; Vol. 7, No. 9. pp. 935-956.
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