• Open Access

The Application of STEM and In situ Controlled Dehydration to Bacterial Systems Using ESEM


  • Contract grant sponsor: Medical Research Council; Contract grant numbers: G0801161, G0801212; Contract grant sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; Contract grant numbers: EP/P50385X/1, EP/P504120/1; Contract grant sponsor: FIE Company; Contract grant number: CASE studentship.

Address for reprints: Lech Staniewicz, Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB3 0HE, UK.

E-mail: ltls2@cam.ac.uk


Transmission imaging with an environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) (Wet STEM) is a recent development in the field of electron microscopy, combining the simple preparation inherent to ESEM work with an alternate form of contrast available through a STEM detector. Because the technique is relatively new, there is little information available on how best to apply this technique and which samples it is best suited for. This work is a description of the sample preparation and microscopy employed by the authors for imaging bacteria with Wet STEM (scanning transmission electron microscopy). Three different bacterial samples will be presented in this study: first, used as a model system, is Escherichia coli for which the contrast mechanisms of STEM are demonstrated along with the visual effects of a dehydration-induced collapse. This collapse, although clearly in some sense artifactual, is thought to lead to structurally meaningful morphological information. Second, Wet STEM is applied to two distinct bacterial systems to demonstrate the novel types of information accessible by this approach: the plastic-producing Cupriavidus necator along with wild-type and ΔmreC knockout mutants of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. Cupriavidus necator is shown to exhibit clear internal differences between bacteria with and without plastic granules, while the ΔmreC mutant of S. Typhimurium has an internal morphology distinct from that of the wild type. SCANNING 34: 237-246, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.