Incorporating 3D anatomy to better understand leaf function

Electron – Scientific Presentation 14:15 – 15:25 (Sydney Time) | Wednesday 17 Feb 2020


Cell ultrastructure is predominantly studied by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), providing the user detailed two-dimensional (2D) information. Recent advances in microscopy have streamlined the acquisition of three-dimensional (3D) images. Scanning electron microscopy with an automated microtome Serial block face scanning electron microscopy (SBFSEM) produces serial micrographs that can be stacked and segmented to produce a three dimensional volume data set. We are using SBFSEM on leaf cells to explore organelle size, shape and position, along with cell density and packing. The 3D anatomical data produced is being used to explore the relationship between leaf form and functionality. Models of key leaf processes, such as photosynthesis, sit at the heart of crop productivity and climate change models but include significant assumptions regarding the structure of leaves that ignore 3D complexity. We don’t know if our understanding of leaf function is biased by our simplified 2D representations. SBFSEM allows us to challenge the idea of the “textbook” leaf cell.


Richard Harwood

Richard Harwood

University of Sydney

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