Scanning Microscopy


We describe the application of a polyethylene glycol (PEG) embedding technique to examine the sensory and supporting structures of the inner ear. The chinchilla organ of Corti was exposed by cracking PEG embedded cochleas. A range of PEG molecular weights (2000-8000) were utilized; PEG 2000, with a melting point of 57°C was preferred. After removal of the PEG, the three-dimensional aspects of intracellular structures were observed using scanning electron microscopy. Filamentous elements in the hair cell cuticular plate and in the supporting cells were clearly observed, as was the mesh work of cross-linked actin filaments in the cuticular portion of sensory hair cells. Microtubule and microfilament alignment patterns in pillar and Deiters cells were also clearly demonstrated. Characteristic structures in the outer hair cell synaptic region, such as the post-synaptic cistern and synaptic body, were well preserved using the PEG method.

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