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J Microsc. 2018 Nov 12. doi: 10.1111/jmi.12764. [Epub ahead of print]

FIB-SEM imaging properties of Drosophila melanogaster tissues embedded in Lowicryl HM20.

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Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences and Institute for Biophysics, Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Lowicryl resins enable processing of biological material for electron microscopy at the lowest temperatures compatible with resin embedding. When combined with high-pressure freezing and freeze-substitution, Lowicryl embedding supports preservation of fine structural details and fluorescent markers. Here, we analysed the applicability of Lowicryl HM20 embedding for focused ion beam (FIB) scanning electron microscopy (SEM) tomography of Drosophila melanogaster embryonic and larval model systems. We show that the freeze-substitution with per-mill concentrations of uranyl acetate provided sufficient contrast and an image quality of SEM imaging in the range of similar samples analysed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Preservation of genetically encoded fluorescent proteins allowed correlative localization of regions of interest (ROI) within the embedded tissue block. TEM on sections cut from the block face enabled evaluation of structural preservation to allow ROI ranking and thus targeted, time-efficient FIB-SEM tomography data collection. The versatility of Lowicryl embedding opens new perspectives for designing hybrid SEM-TEM workflows to comprehensively analyse biological structures. LAY DESCRIPTION: Focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy is becoming a widely used technique for the three-dimensional analysis of biological samples at fine structural details beyond levels feasible for light microscopy. To withstand the abrasion of material by the ion beam and the imaging by the scanning electron beam, biological samples have to be embedded into resins, most commonly these are very dense epoxy-based plastics. However, dense resins generate electron scattering which interferes with the signal from the biological specimen. Furthermore, to improve the imaging contrast, epoxy embedding requires chemical treatments with e.g. heavy metals, which deteriorate the ultrastructure of the biological specimen. In this study we explored the applicability of an electron lucent resin, Lowicryl HM 20, for focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy. The Lowicryl embedding workflow operates at milder chemical treatments and lower temperatures, thus preserving the sub-cellular and sub-organellar organization, as well as fluorescent markers visible by light microscopy. Here we show that focus ion beam scanning electron microscopy of Lowicryl-embedded fruit flies tissues provides reliable imaging revealing fine structural details. Our workflow benefited from use of transmission electron microscopy for the quality control of the ultrastructural preservation and fluorescent light microscopy for localization of regions of interest. The versatility of Lowicryl embedding opens up new perspectives for designing hybrid workflows combining fluorescent light, scanning, and transmission electron microscopy techniques to comprehensively analyze biological structures.


Correlative light and electron; Drosophila melanogaster; Lowicryl embedding; dorsal closure; embryonic brain; focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy; freeze-substitution; microscopy; polytene chromosomes


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