Scanning Microscopy


High-pressure-freezing permits direct cryo-fixation of sea urchin embryos having a defined developmental state without the formation of large ice crystals. We have investigated preparation protocols for observing high-pressure-frozen and freeze-fractured samples in the scanning electron microscope. High-pressure-freezing was superior to other freezing protocols, because the whole bulk sample was reasonably well frozen and the overall three-dimensional shape of the embryos was well preserved. The samples were either dehydrated by freeze-substitution and critical-point-drying, or imaged in the partially hydrated state, using a cold stage in the SEM. During freeze-substitution the samples were stabilized by fixatives. The disadvantage of this method was that shrinking and extraction effects, caused by the removal of the water, could not be avoided. These disadvantages were avoided when. the sample was imaged in the frozen-hydrated state using a cold-stage in the SEM. This would be the method of choice for morphometric studies. Frozen-hydrated samples, however, were very beam sensitive and many structures remained covered by the ice and were not visible. Frozen-hydrated samples were partially freeze-dried to make visible additional structures that had been covered by ice. However, this method also caused drying artifacts when too much water was removed.

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