Scanning Microscopy


Chemically fixed pancreas was infiltrated with various cryoprotectants to obtain homogeneously vitrified samples upon cooling. The suitability of these samples for cryo-ultramicrotomy was tested. Contrast was hardly detectable initially in thin cryo-sections but increased upon irradiation, irrespective of the cryoprotectant (glycerol, propylene glycol, methanol) used. Contrast and beam damage were analyzed in vitrified thin films from collagen, phospholipid vesicles and various concentrations of glycerol. Glycerol increased the beam sensitivity of both collagen and phospholipid vesicles, but diminished the contrast between matrix and lipid vesicles or collagen fibers. The effects of glycerol as observed in thin films explain some of the effects of cryoprotectants in thin cryo-sections. To reduce beam damage in vitrified specimens two approaches are proposed. Firstly, when vitrified films are prepared, dilute suspensions should be used without cryoprotectant. In some cases, such as (thin) intact cells, the composition of the suspended material can only be marginally influenced. Then a second approach can be used involving the application of higher accelerating voltages (e.g. 300 kV). This has two advantages; the increase in mean free path-length of the electrons causes less beam damage on one hand and allows better resolution of thick specimens on the other hand. Micrographs from E. coli bacteria vitrified from suspension illustrate some of the potentials of "intermediate voltage" cryo-electron microscopy.

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