X-Ray Fluorescence Microscopy Reveals the Role of Selenium in Spermatogenesis

Sebastian Kehr, Mikalai Malinouski, Lydia Finney, Stefan Vogt, Vyacheslav M. Labunskyy, Marina V. Kasaikina, Bradley A. Carlson, You Zhou, Dolph L. Hatfield, Vadim N. Gladyshev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Selenium (Se) is a trace element with important roles in human health. Several selenoproteins have essential functions in development. However, the cellular and tissue distribution of Se remains largely unknown because of the lack of analytical techniques that image this element with sufficient sensitivity and resolution. Herein, we report that X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM) can be used to visualize and quantify the tissue, cellular, and subcellular topography of Se. We applied this technique to characterize the role of Se in spermatogenesis and identified a dramatic Se enrichment specifically in late spermatids, a pattern that was not seen in any other elemental maps. This enrichment was due to elevated levels of the mitochondrial form of glutathione peroxidase 4 and was fully dependent on the supplies of Se by selenoprotein P. High-resolution scans revealed that Se concentrated near the lumen side of elongating spermatids, where structural components of sperm are formed. During spermatogenesis, maximal Se associated with decreased phosphorus, whereas Zn did not change. In sperm, Se was primarily in the midpiece and colocalized with Cu and Fe. XFM allowed quantification of Se in the midpiece (0.8 fg) and head (0.2 fg) of individual sperm cells, revealing the ability of sperm cells to handle the amounts of this element well above its toxic levels. Overall, the use of XFM allowed visualization of tissue and cellular Se and provided important insights in the role of this and other trace elements in spermatogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)808-818
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 26 2009


  • X-ray fluorescence microscopy
  • male reproduction
  • selenium
  • spermatogenesis
  • trace elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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