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Cell Metal Segregation and Ultramicroscopy Techniques:
Towards Mammalian Liver Pathologies Microscopic Characterization
Marziale Milani, Claudia Brundu, Grazia Santisi, Claudio Savoia and Francesco Tatti

Iron, Copper and Zinc are essential metals in physiological cell metabolism. Trace amounts of metals are essential for life, while excess gives rise to intoxication and deleterious effects. In recent years there has been an enormous advance in the understanding of metal transport across the plasma membrane and several metal trafficking proteins have been identified in various organisms. These findings have generated renewed interests in transport mechanisms, whose deregulation is involved in the pathogenesis of metal-overload-diseases in mammalians. Our work based on ultramicroscopy techniques focuses on some aspects of metal transport in terms of segregation, storage and distribution among the different cell compartments. An important goal is the understanding of granule building and disruption. We show that Focused Ion Beam/ Scanning Electron Microscope (FIB/SEM) technology allows to obtain submicron dissections of cells prepared according to different protocols and helps in understanding more about the localization and structure of metal grains inside the cells; Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDX) complementation can provide an analysis of elemental composition and distribution of storage units.

Keywords: Electron Microscopy, Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy, P. scaber, mammalian liver, metal transport, metal-overload-diseases

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