Cryoelectron Microscopy of Vitrified Specimens

  • Jacques Dubochet
  • Marc Adrian
  • Jiin-Ju Chang
  • Jean Lepault
  • Alasdair W. McDowall


Water is the most abundant component of biological material, but it is systematically excluded from conventional electron microscopy. This is because water evaporates rapidly under the vacuum conditions of an electron microscope. Cryoelectron microscopy has long been seen as a possible avenue to overcome this limitation, but until recently the direct observation of frozen-hydrated specimens was relatively unsuccessful because of a number of serious difficulties. These were, in particular, due to the absence of a good cryospecimen holder, the inherently low contrast of hydrated specimens and the structural damage due to ice crystals formed during freezing. As a consequence, the cryomethods which have flourished in electron microscopy during the last 20 years were not aimed at preserving the hydration of the specimen in the electron microscope. Freezing was only used as an aid to preparation. The objects ultimately observed in the electron microscope were dry and at room temperature. Such cryomethods have recently been reviewed in detail (Robards and Sleytr 1985).


Biological Specimen Semliki Forest Virus Cryoelectron Microscopy Beam Damage Pure Liquid Water 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacques Dubochet
  • Marc Adrian
  • Jiin-Ju Chang
    • 2
  • Jean Lepault
  • Alasdair W. McDowall
    • 1
  1. 1.European Molecular Biology LaboratoryHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Institute of BiophysicsAcademia SinicaPekingChina

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