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Keywords:

  • cell monolayer;
  • chemical fixation;
  • electron microscopy;
  • electron tomography;
  • freeze substitution;
  • high-pressure freezing;
  • pre-embedment immuno-labeling;
  • rehydration;
  • targeted laser cell perforation

Abstract

Electron tomography (ET) is an indispensable high-resolution tool for three dimensional (3D) imaging in cell biology. When applied to immuno-labeled cells, ET can provide essential insights in both the cellular architecture and the dynamics. Current protocols for 3D immuno-labeling of intracellular antigens include permeabilization steps that cause random, extensive cell membrane disruption. This permeabilization results in a poor cell ultrastructure, limiting the usefulness of the specimens for high-resolution studies. Here we describe a novel method, based on a well-controlled permeabilization by targeted laser cell perforation, that allows for the 3D immuno-localization of cytoplasmic antigens in cultured cells. The approach is unique since it is applicable to both chemically and cryo-fixed cells and leads to a superior ultrastructural preservation for electron microscopy and tomography.