Traditionally, research in the field of trace element biology and human and animal health has largely depended on epidemiological methods to demonstrate involvement in biological processes. These studies were typically followed by trace element supplementation trials or attempts at identification of the biochemical pathways involved. With the discovery of biological molecules that contain the trace elements, such as matrix metalloproteinases containing zinc (Zn), cytochrome P450 enzymes containing iron (Fe), and selenoproteins containing selenium (Se), much of the current research focuses on these molecules, and, hence, only indirectly on trace elements themselves. This review focuses largely on two synchrotron-based x-ray techniques: X-ray absorption spectroscopy and x-ray fluorescence imaging that can be used to identify the in situ speciation and distribution of trace elements in tissues, using our recent studies of bovine ovaries, where the distribution of Fe, Se, Zn, and bromine were determined. It also discusses the value of other techniques, such as inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, used to garner information about the concentrations and elemental state of the trace elements. These applications to measure trace elemental distributions in bovine ovaries at high resolutions provide new insights into possible roles for trace elements in the ovary.
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Vol. 94 • No. 4