Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Fine structure of crystalline inclusions in B-cells of the islets of Langerhans in the alligator

  • 24 Accesses

  • 5 Citations


The ultrastructure of crystalline beta granules of the islets of Langerhans in the alligator has been investigated. From optical diffraction analysis and serial sectioning, the existence of four distinct types of crystalline inclusions was established in ultrathin sections. The first type is the most frequent and is interpreted as a rhombohedroni with a base, the ortho-hexagonal unit-cell edges being a=18.9 nm, c=23.0 nm. The second type of crystal (not observed in serial sections) is found compatible with a rhomb-dodecahedron which indexes on a cubic cell with a=9.6 nm. The third type of crystal was assigned to dipyramids. Dipyramids are extremely rare, and only two diffraction patterns were obtained; their crystal system could not be determined. Prisms, which are second in abundance, represent the fourth type of crystal. Spacings as well as the symmetry differ from those of the above three crystal types and indicate a tetragonal cell with a=4.2 nm, c=14.2 nm. The data for the prismatic crystals are strikingly similar to those of proinsulin and may represent the first case of agreement between crystals (i) formed in vitro and studied by X-ray diffraction and (ii) those investigated in situ by electron microscopy.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Andrews, K.W., Dyson, D.J., Keown, S.R.: Interpretation of electron diffraction patterns. London: Adam Hilger Ltd. 1967

  2. Beer, M., Frank, J., Hanszen, K.-J., Kellenberger, E., Williams, R.C.: The possibilities and prospects of obtaining high-resolution information (below 30Å) on biological material using the electron microscope. Quart. Rev. Biophys. 7, 211–238 (1975)

  3. Berger, J.E.: Optical diffraction studies of crystalline structures in electron micrographs. I. Theoretical considerations. J. Cell Biol. 43, 442–447 (1969)

  4. Blundell, T.L., Dodson, G.G., Dodson, E., Hodgkin, D.C., Vijayan, M.: X-ray analysis and the structure of insulin. In: Recent progress in hormone research (E.B. Astwood, ed.), pp. 1–40. New York and London: Academic Press 1971

  5. Crowther, R.A., Klug, A.: Structural analysis of macromolecular assemblies by image reconstruction from electron micrographs. Ann. Rev. Biochem. 44, 161–182 (1975)

  6. Erickson, H.P., Klug, A.: Measurement and compensation of defocusing and aberrations by Fourier processing of electron micrographs. Phil. Trans. B 261, 105–118 (1971)

  7. Erlandsen, S.L., Parsons, J.A., Burke, J.P., Redick, J.A., Orden, D.E. van, Orden, L.S. van: A modification of the unlabeled antibody enzyme method using heterologous antisera for the light and ultrastructural localization of insulin, glucagon and growth hormone. J. Histochem. Cytochem. 23, 666–677 (1975)

  8. Fraser, R.D.B., Millward, G.R.: Image averaging by optical filtering. J. Ultrastruct. Res. 31, 203–211 (1970)

  9. Fullerton, W.W., Potter, R., Low, B.W.: Proinsulin: Crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction studies. Proc. nat. Acad. Sci. (Wash.) 66, 1213–1219 (1970)

  10. Greider, M.H., Howell, S.L., Lacy, P.E.: Isolation and properties of secretory granules from rat islets of Langerhans. II. Ultrastructure of the beta granules. J. Cell Biol. 41, 162–166 (1969)

  11. Harding, M.M., Hodgkin, D.C., Kennedy, A.F., O'Connor, A., Weitzmann, P.D.J.: The crystal structure of insulin. II. An investigation of rhombohedral zinc insulin crystals and a report of other crystalline forms. J. molec. Biol. 16, 212–226 (1966)

  12. Hodgkin, D.C.: Varieties of insulin. J. Endocrinol. 63, 3P-14P (1974)

  13. Kemmler, W.: Insulin synthesis in B-cells. In: Insulin II, Handb. Exp. Pharm. (A. Hasselblatt and F.v. Bruchhausen, eds.), Vol. XXXII, part 2, pp. 17–56. Berlin-Heidelberg-New York: Springer 1975

  14. Klug, A., DeRosier, D.J.: Optical filtering of electron micrographs: Reconstruction of one-sided images. Nature (Lond.) 212, 29–32 (1966)

  15. Lange, R.H., Crystalline B-granules: Rhombic dodecaheders (a=7.4nm?). Diabetologia 7, 465–466 (1971)

  16. Lange, R.H.: Histochemistry of the islets of Langerhans. In: Handbook of histochemistry (W. Graumann and K. Neumann, eds.), Vol. VIII, part 1, pp. 1–141. Stuttgart: Gustav Fisher Verlag 1973

  17. Lange, R.H.: Crystalline islet B-granules in the grass snake (Natrix natrix (L.)): Tilting experiments in the electron microscope. J. Ultrastruct. Res. 46, 301–307 (1974)

  18. Lange, R.H.: Crystallography of islet secretory granules — a contribution to the problem of chemical composition of secretion granules. In: Endocrine gut and pancreas (T. Fujita, ed.), pp. 167–178. Amsterdam: Elsevier Scientific Publ. Co. 1976

  19. Lange, R.H., Boseck, S., Ali, S.S.: Crystallographic interpretation of the ultrastructure of B-granules in the islets of Langerhans of the grass snake, Natrix natrix (L.). Z. Zellforsch. 131, 559–570 (1972)

  20. Langer, R., Poppe, Ch., Schramm, H.J., Hoppe, W.: Electron microscopy of thin protein crystal sections. J. molec. Biol. 93, 159–165 (1975)

  21. Luft, J.H.: Improvements in epoxy resin embedding methods. J. biophys. biochem. Cytol. 9, 409–414 (1961)

  22. Malaisse, W.J., Malaisse-Lagae, F., Van Obberghen, E., Somers, G., Devis, G., Ravazzola, M., Orci, L.: Role of microtubules in the phasic pattern of insulin release. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 253, 630–652 (1975)

  23. Millonig, G.: Advantage of a phosphate buffer for OsO4 solutions in fixation. J. appl. Phys. 32, 1637 (1961)

  24. Ohlendorf, D.H., Collins, M.L., Banaszak, L.J.: Analysis of optical diffraction patterns from electron micrographs of lattices. J. molec. Biol. 99, 143–151 (1975)

  25. Palade, G.E.: A study of fixation for electron microscopy. J. exp. Med. 95, 285–298 (1952)

  26. Sabatini, D.D., Bensch, K., Barrnett, R.J.: Cytochemistry and electron microscopy. The preservation of cellular ultrastructure by the aldehyde fixation. J. Cell Biol. 17, 19–58 (1963)

  27. Sato, T., Herman, L., Fitzgerald, P.J.: The comparative ultrastructure of the pancreatic islets of Langerhans. Gen. comp. Endocr. 7, 132–157 (1966)

  28. Smith, R.E.: Summary of discussion. Diabetes 21 (Suppl. 2), 581–583 (1972)

  29. Titlbach, M.: Light and electron microscopic study of crocodile islets of Langerhans. In preparation, 1977

  30. Venable, J.H., Coggeshall, R.A.: A simplified lead citrate stain for use in electron microscopy. J. Cell Biol. 25, 407–408 (1965)

  31. Yanagida, M., Boy de la Tour, E., Alff-Steinberg, C., Kellenberger, E.: Studies on the morphopoiesis of the head of bacteriophage T-even. VIII. Multilayered polyheads. J. molec. Biol. 50, 35–58 (1970)

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to I. Raška.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Raška, I., Komrska, J., Titlbach, M. et al. Fine structure of crystalline inclusions in B-cells of the islets of Langerhans in the alligator. Cell Tissue Res. 187, 535–550 (1978). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00229618

Download citation

Key words

  • Insulin
  • Electron microscopy (serial sections)
  • Optical diffraction
  • Crystalline beta granules (rhombohedra, dodecahedra, dipyramids, prisms)