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J Bacteriol. 2003 Oct;185(20):6112-8.

Cryo-transmission electron microscopy of frozen-hydrated sections of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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Biophysics Interdepartmental Group and Department of Microbiology, College of Biological Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


High-pressure freezing of Escherichia coli K-12 and Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 in the presence of cryoprotectants provided consistent vitrification of cells so that frozen-hydrated sections could be cut, providing approximately 2-nm resolution of structure. The size and shape of the bacteria, as well as their surface and cytoplasmic constituents, were nicely preserved and compared well with other published high-resolution techniques. Cells possessed a rich cytoplasm containing a diffuse dispersion of ribosomes and genetic material. Close examination of cells revealed that the periplasmic space was compressed during cryosectioning, a finding which provided supporting evidence that this space is filled by a compressible gel. Since the outer membrane and peptidoglycan layer are bonded together via lipoproteins, the space between them (although still part of the periplasmic space) was not as compacted. Even when this cryosectioning compression was taken into account, there was still substantial variability in the width of the periplasmic space. It is possible that the protoplast has some capacity to float freely within the periplasm.

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