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Preparing lamellae from vitreous biological samples using a dual-beam scanning electron microscope for cryo-electron tomography

DOI: 10.3791/62350 DOI Help

Authors: Claudine Bisson (King’s College London; Birkbeck College, University of London) , Corey W. Hecksel (Diamond Light Source; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) , James B. Gilchrist (Diamond Light Source) , Roland A. Fleck (King's College London)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Journal Of Visualized Experiments

State: Published (Approved)
Published: August 2021
Diamond Proposal Number(s): 21004

Open Access Open Access

Abstract: Presented here is a protocol for preparing cryo-lamellae from plunge-frozen grids of Plasmodium falciparum-infected human erythrocytes, which could easily be adapted for other biological samples. The basic principles for preparing samples, milling, and viewing lamellae are common to all instruments and the protocol can be followed as a general guide to on-grid cryo-lamella preparation for cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM) and cryo-electron tomography (cryoET). Electron microscopy grids supporting the cells are plunge-frozen into liquid nitrogen-cooled liquid ethane using a manual or automated plunge freezer, then screened on a light microscope equipped with a cryo-stage. Frozen grids are transferred into a cryo-scanning electron microscope equipped with a focused ion beam (cryoFIB-SEM). Grids are routinely sputter coated prior to milling, which aids dispersal of charge build-up during milling. Alternatively, an e-beam rotary coater can be used to apply a layer of carbon-platinum to the grids, the exact thickness of which can be more precisely controlled. Once inside the cryoFIB-SEM an additional coating of an organoplatinum compound is applied to the surface of the grid via a gas injection system (GIS). This layer protects the front edge of the lamella as it is milled, the integrity of which is critical for achieving uniformly thin lamellae. Regions of interest are identified via SEM and milling is carried out in a step-wise fashion, reducing the current of the ion beam as the lamella reaches electron transparency, in order to avoid excessive heat generation. A grid with multiple lamellae is then transferred to a transmission electron microscope (TEM) under cryogenic conditions for tilt-series acquisition. A robust and contamination-free workflow for lamella preparation is an essential step for downstream techniques, including cellular cryoEM, cryoET, and sub-tomogram averaging. Development of these techniques, especially for lift-out and milling of high-pressure frozen samples, is of high-priority in the field.

Subject Areas: Technique Development, Biology and Bio-materials, Chemistry

Diamond Offline Facilities: Electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC)
Instruments: Scios-Scios at Diamond

Added On: 30/08/2021 08:21


Discipline Tags:

Biochemistry Technique Development - Life Sciences & Biotech Chemistry Life Sciences & Biotech

Technical Tags:

Microscopy Electron Microscopy (EM) Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)