The Golgi apparatus, which plays a role in various biosynthetic pathways, is usually identified in electron microscopy by the morphological criteria of lamellae. A 3-dimensional analyses with serial block-face scanning electron microscope (SBF-SEM), a volume-SEM proficient in obtaining large volumes of data at the whole-cell level, could be a promising technique for understanding the precise distribution and complex ultrastructure of Golgi apparatus, although optimal methods for such analyses remain unclear since the observation can be hampered with sample charging and low image contrast, and manual segmentation often requires significant manpower. The present study attempted the whole-cell observation and semi-automatic classification and segmentation of the Golgi apparatus in rat hepatocytes for the first time by SBF-SEM via ZIO staining, a classical osmium impregnation. The staining electron-densely visualized individual Golgi lamellae, and their ultrastructure could stably be observed without any noticeable charging. The simple thresholding of the serial images enabled the efficient reconstruction of the labeled Golgi apparatus, which revealed plural Golgi apparatus in one hepatocyte. The combination of the heavy metal-based histochemistry of zinc, iodine and osmium (ZIO) staining and SBF-SEM was useful in the 3-dimensional observation of the Golgi apparatus at the whole-cell level because of two technical advantages: (i) visualization of the Golgi apparatus without any heavy metal staining and efficient acquisition of the block-face images without additional conductive staining or any devices for eliminating charging; (ii) easy identification of the staining and hassle-free, semi-automatic classification and segmentation by simple thresholding of the images. This novel approach could elucidate the topographic characteristics of the Golgi apparatus in hepatocytes.
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