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Methods Mol Biol. 2014;1062:473-86. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-580-4_25.

High-pressure freezing and freeze substitution of Arabidopsis for electron microscopy.

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Advance Electron Microscopy Facility, Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.


The objectives of electron microscopy ultrastructural studies are to examine cellular architecture and relate the cell's structural machinery to dynamic functional roles. This aspiration is difficult to achieve if specimens have not been adequately preserved in a "living state"; hence specimen preparation is of the utmost importance for the success of any electron micrographic study. High-pressure freezing (HPF)/freeze substitution (FS) has long been recognized as the primer technique for the preservation of ultrastructure in biological samples. In most cases a basic HPF/freeze substitution protocol is sufficient to obtain superior ultrastructural preservation and structural contrast, which allows one to use more advanced microscopy techniques such as 3D electron tomography. However, for plant tissues, which have a thick cell wall, large water-filled vacuoles, and air spaces (all of which are detrimental to cryopreservation), these basic HPF/FS protocols often yield undesirable results. In particular, ice crystal artifacts and the staining of membrane systems are often poorly or negatively stained, which make 3D segmentation of a tomogram difficult. To overcome these problems, various aspects of the HPF/FS protocol can be altered, including the cryo-filler(s) used, freeze substitution cocktail, and the resin infiltration process. This chapter will describe these modifications for the preparation of plant tissues for routine electron microscopic studies, immunocytochemistry, and 3D tomographic electron imaging.

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