Cryo-scanning transmission electron tomography of vitrified cells

Sharon Grayer Wolf, Lothar Houben, Michael Elbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cryo-electron tomography (CET) of fully hydrated, vitrified biological specimens has emerged as a vital tool for biological research. For cellular studies, the conventional imaging modality of transmission electron microscopy places stringent constraints on sample thickness because of its dependence on phase coherence for contrast generation. Here we demonstrate the feasibility of using scanning transmission electron microscopy for cryo-tomography of unstained vitrified specimens (CSTET). We compare CSTET and CET for the imaging of whole bacteria and human tissue culture cells, finding favorable contrast and detail in the CSTET reconstructions. Particularly at high sample tilts, the CSTET signals contain more informative data than energy-filtered CET phase contrast images, resulting in improved depth resolution. Careful control over dose delivery permits relatively high cumulative exposures before the onset of observable beam damage. The increase in acceptable specimen thickness broadens the applicability of electron cryo-tomography.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-428
Number of pages6
JournalNature Methods
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Cell Biology


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