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J Electron Microsc Tech. 1988 Sep;10(1):87-111.

Controlled environment vitrification system: an improved sample preparation technique.

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1
Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455-0132.

Abstract

The controlled environment vitrification system (CEVS) permits cryofixation of hydrated biological and colloidal dispersions and aggregates from a temperature- and saturation-controlled environment. Otherwise, specimens prepared in an uncontrolled laboratory atmosphere are subject to evaporation and heat transfer, which may introduce artifacts caused by concentration, pH, ionic strength, and temperature changes. Moreover, it is difficult to fix and examine the microstructure of systems at temperatures other than ambient (e.g., biological systems at in vivo conditions and colloidal systems above room temperature). A system has been developed that ensures that a liquid or partially liquid specimen is maintained in its original state while it is being prepared before vitrification and, once prepared, is vitrified with little alteration of its microstructure. A controlled environment is provided within a chamber where temperature and chemical activity of volatile components can be controlled while the specimen is being prepared. The specimen grid is mounted on a plunger, and a synchronous shutter is opened almost simultaneously with the release of the plunger, so that the specimen is propelled abruptly through the shutter opening into a cryogenic bath. We describe the system and its use and illustrate the value of the technique with TEM micrographs of surfactant microstructures in which specimen preparation artifacts were avoided. We also discuss applications to other instruments like SEM, to other techniques like freeze-fracture, and to novel "on the grid" experiments that make it possible to freeze successive instants of dynamic processes such as membrane fusion, chemical reactions, and phase transitions.

PMID:
3193246
DOI:
10.1002/jemt.1060100111
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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