Imaging metals in biology: balancing sensitivity, selectivity and spatial resolution
Metal biochemistry drives a diverse range of cellular processes associated with development, health and disease. Determining metal distribution, concentration and flux defines our understanding of these fundamental processes. A comprehensive analysis of biological systems requires a balance of analytical techniques that inform on metal quantity (sensitivity), chemical state (selectivity) and location (spatial resolution) with a high degree of certainty. A number of approaches are available for imaging metals from whole tissues down to subcellular organelles, as well as mapping metal turnover, protein association and redox state within these structures. Technological advances in micro- and nano-scale imaging are striving to achieve multi-dimensional and in vivo measures of metals while maintaining the native biochemical environment and physiological state. This Tutorial Review discusses state-of-the-art imaging technology as a guide to obtaining novel insight into the biology of metals, with sensitivity, selectivity and spatial resolution in focus.