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Cryo-Electron Microscopy

The major goal in cryo-microscopy is the preservation of the specimen at a state close to native solution conditions by freezing the sample fast enough to prevent water crystallization (the water is instead converted to a glass-like state – so-called vitreous ice).  This goal can be achieved by plunging thin films of solution (several hundred nanometers thick) on a microscopy grid into liquid ethane cooled to about -180°C.  The sample can then be stored in liquid nitrogen and is transferred to the electron microscope in a frozen state.  Major challenges with this technique are ice contamination and low contrast of the specimen.  Since specimens are imaged in their native state, the only contrast available is the small difference of interaction with electron of biological material compared to solvent.  Cryo-electron images thus have inherently a very low signal-to-noise ratio.  Careful interpretation or further processing (averaging) of the images is therefore usually necessary.

Cryo-EM image of the Influenza A/PR8 (H1N1) virus Phase transition in liposomes from liquid phase to rippled gel phase induced by the electron beam Bolaliposomes Doxil Encapsulated in Lipid
Influenza A/PRB (H1N1)
Liquid and rippled gel phase liposomes
Bolalipid liposomes
Doxorubicin crystals encapsulated in lipid spheres (Doxil)

For more information about the application of cryo-EM for your research, please contact Ulrich Baxa in the Electron Microscopy Laboratory (EML).

Page last updated February 28, 2012 @ 4:00 pm