In-situ integrity control of frozen-hydrated, vitreous lamellas prepared by the cryo-focused ion beam-scanning electron microscope.

Journal of structural biology

PubMedID: 23742839

de Winter DA, Mesman RJ, Hayles MF, Schneijdenberg CT, Mathisen C, Post JA. In-situ integrity control of frozen-hydrated, vitreous lamellas prepared by the cryo-focused ion beam-scanning electron microscope. J Struct Biol. 2013;183(1):11-8.
Recently a number of new approaches have been presented with the intention to produce electron beam transparent cryo-sections (lamellas in FIB-SEM terminology) from hydrated vitreously frozen cryo samples with a Focused Ion Beam (FIB) system, suitable for cryo-Transmission Electron Microscopy (cryo-TEM). As the workflow is still challenging and time consuming, it is important to be able to determine the integrity and suitability (cells vs. no cells; vitreous vs. crystalline) of the lamellas. Here we present an in situ method that tests both conditions by using the cryo-Scanning Electron Microscope (cryo-SEM) in transmission mode (TSEM; Transmission Scanning Electron Microscope) once the FIB-made lamella is ready. Cryo-TSEM imaging of unstained cells yields strong contrast, enabling direct imaging of material present in the lamellas. In addition, orientation contrast is shown to be suitable for distinguishing crystalline lamellas from vitreous lamellas. Tilting the stage a few degrees results in changes of contrast between ice grains as a function of the tilt angle, whereas the contrast of areas with vitreous ice remains unchanged as a function of the tilt angle. This orientation contrast has subsequently been validated by cryo-Electron BackScattered Diffraction (EBSD) in transmission mode. Integration of the presented method is discussed and the role it can play in future developments for a new and innovative all-in-one cryo-FIB-SEM life sciences instrument.