Applications of emerging transmission electron microscopy technology in PCD research and diagnosis

Amelia Shoemark (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
346 Downloads (Pure)


Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD) is a heterogeneous genetic condition characterized by dysfunction of motile cilia. Patients suffer from chronic infection and inflammation of the upper and lower respiratory tract. Diagnosis of PCD is confirmed by identification of a hallmark defect of ciliary ultrastructure or by identification of biallelic pathogenic mutations in a known PCD gene. Since the first description of PCD in 1976, assessment of ciliary ultrastructure by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) has been central to diagnosis and research. Electron tomography is a technique whereby a series of transmission electron micrographs are collected at different angles and reconstructed into a single 3D model of a specimen. Electron tomography provides improved spatial information and resolution compared to a single micrograph. Research by electron tomography has revealed new insight into ciliary ultrastructure and consequently ciliary function at a molecular and cellular level. Gene discovery studies in PCD have utilized electron tomography to define the structural consequences of variants in cilia genes. Modern transmission electron microscopes capable of electron tomography are increasingly being installed in clinical laboratories. This presents the possibility for the use of tomography technique in a diagnostic setting. This review describes the electron tomography technique, the contribution tomography has made to the understanding of basic cilia structure and function and finally the potential of the technique for use in PCD diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-414
Number of pages7
JournalUltrastructural Pathology
Issue number6
Early online date18 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


  • 3D
  • cilia
  • dynein
  • tomography


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