Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

SPIRE—a software tool for bicontinuous phase recognition: application for plastid cubic membranes

Hain, T.M., Bykowski, M., Saba, M., Evans, M.E., Schröder-Turk, G.E. and Kowalewska, Ł. (2021) SPIRE—a software tool for bicontinuous phase recognition: application for plastid cubic membranes. Plant Physiology, 188 (1). pp. 81-96.

PDF - Published Version
Download (1MB) | Preview
Free to read:
*No subscription required


Bicontinuous membranes in cell organelles epitomize nature’s ability to create complex functional nanostructures. Like their synthetic counterparts, these membranes are characterized by continuous membrane sheets draped onto topologically complex saddle-shaped surfaces with a periodic network-like structure. Their structure sizes, (around 50–500 nm), and fluid nature make transmission electron microscopy (TEM) the analysis method of choice to decipher their nanostructural features. Here we present a tool, Surface Projection Image Recognition Environment (SPIRE), to identify bicontinuous structures from TEM sections through interactive identification by comparison to mathematical “nodal surface” models. The prolamellar body (PLB) of plant etioplasts is a bicontinuous membrane structure with a key physiological role in chloroplast biogenesis. However, the determination of its spatial structural features has been held back by the lack of tools enabling the identification and quantitative analysis of symmetric membrane conformations. Using our SPIRE tool, we achieved a robust identification of the bicontinuous diamond surface as the dominant PLB geometry in angiosperm etioplasts in contrast to earlier long-standing assertions in the literature. Our data also provide insights into membrane storage capacities of PLBs with different volume proportions and hint at the limited role of a plastid ribosome localization directly inside the PLB grid for its proper functioning. This represents an important step in understanding their as yet elusive structure–function relationship.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Mathematics, Statistics, Chemistry and Physics
Publisher: Oxford University Press on behalf of American Society of Plant Biologists.
Copyright: © 2021 The Authors
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year