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J Microsc. 2009 Jul;235(1):1-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2818.2009.03184.x.

High-aperture cryogenic light microscopy.

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Physical Biosciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California, USA.


We report here the development of instruments and protocols for carrying out high numerical aperture immersion light microscopy on cryogenic specimens. Imaging by this modality greatly increases the lifetimes of fluorescence probes, including those commonly used for protein localization studies, while retaining the ability to image the specimen with high fidelity and spatial resolution. The novel use of a cryogenic immersion fluid also minimizes the refractive index mismatch between the sample and lens, leading to a more efficient coupling of the light from the sample to the image forming system. This enhancement is applicable to both fluorescence and transmitted light microscopy techniques. The design concepts used for the cryogenic microscope can be applied to virtually any existing light-based microscopy technique. This prospect is particularly exciting in the context of 'super-resolution' techniques, where enhanced fluorescence lifetime probes are especially useful. Thus, using this new modality it is now possible to observe dynamic events in a live cell, and then rapidly vitrify the specimen at a specific time point prior to carrying out high-resolution imaging. The techniques described can be used in conjunction with other imaging modalities in correlated studies. We have also developed instrumentation to perform cryo-light imaging together with soft X-ray tomography on the same cryo-fixed specimen as a means of carrying out high content, quantifiable correlated imaging analyses. These methods are equally applicable to correlated light and electron microscopy of frozen biological objects.

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