Calcium is supposed to play an important role in the control of protoplasmic streaming in slime mold plasmodia. The motive force for protoplasmic streaming is generated by the interaction of actin and myosin. This contraction is supposed to be controlled by intracellular Ca-fluxes similar to the triggering system in skeleton muscle. The histochemical localisation of calcium however is problematic because of the possible diffusion artifacts especially in aquous media.To evaluate this problem calcium localisation was studied in small pieces of shock frozen (liquid propane at -189°C) plasmodial strands of Physarum polycephalum, which were further processed with 3 different methods: 1) freeze substitution in ethanol at -75°C, staining in 100% ethanol with 1% uranyl acetate, and embedding in styrene-methacrylate. For comparison the staining procedure was omitted in some preparations. 2)Freeze drying at about -95°C, followed by immersion with 100% ethanol containing 1% uranyl acetate, and embedding. 3) Freeze fracture, carbon coating and SEM investigation at temperatures below -100° C.
The advent of the scanning electron microscope (SCEM) has renewed interest in preparing specimens by avoiding the forces of surface tension. The present method of freeze drying by Boyde and Barger (1969) and Small and Marszalek (1969) does prevent surface tension but ice crystal formation and time required for pumping out the specimen to dryness has discouraged us. We believe an attractive alternative to freeze drying is the critical point method originated by Anderson (1951; for electron microscopy. He avoided surface tension effects during drying by first exchanging the specimen water with alcohol, amy L acetate and then with carbon dioxide. He then selected a specific temperature (36.5°C) and pressure (72 Atm.) at which carbon dioxide would pass from the liquid to the gaseous phase without the effect of surface tension This combination of temperature and, pressure is known as the "critical point" of the Liquid.
The use of critical point drying is rapidly becoming a popular method of preparing biological samples for scanning electron microscopy. The procedure is rapid, and produces consistent results with a variety of samples. The preservation of surface details is much greater than that of air drying, and the procedure is less complicated than that of freeze drying. This paper will present results comparing conventional air-drying of plant specimens to critical point drying, both of fixed and unfixed material. The preservation of delicate structures which are easily damaged in processing and the use of filter paper as a vehicle for drying will be discussed.
The intestinal roundworm of swine is pinkish in color and about the diameter of a lead pencil. Adult worms, taken from parasitized swine, frequently were observed with macroscopic lesions on their cuticule. Those possessing such lesions were rinsed in distilled water, and cylindrical segments of the affected areas were removed. Some of the segments were fixed in buffered formalin before freeze-drying; others were freeze-dried immediately. Initially, specimens were quenched in liquid freon followed by immersion in liquid nitrogen. They were then placed in ampuoles in a freezer at −45C and sublimated by vacuum until dry. After the specimens appeared dry, the freezer was allowed to come to room temperature slowly while the vacuum was maintained. The dried specimens were attached to metal pegs with conductive silver paint and placed in a vacuum evaporator on a rotating tilting stage. They were then coated by evaporating an alloy of 20% palladium and 80% gold to a thickness of approximately 300 A°. The specimens were examined by secondary electron emmission in a scanning electron microscope.
We have employed cryoelectron microscopy to visualize events that occur during the freeze-drying of artificial membranes by employing real time video capture techniques. Artificial membranes or liposomes which are spherical structures within internal aqueous space are stabilized by water which provides the driving force for spontaneous self-assembly of these structures. Previous assays of damage to these structures which are induced by freeze drying reveal that the two principal deleterious events that occur are 1) fusion of liposomes and 2) leakage of contents trapped within the liposome . In the past the only way to access these events was to examine the liposomes following the dehydration event. This technique allows the event to be monitored in real time as the liposomes destabilize and as water is sublimed at cryo temperatures in the vacuum of the microscope. The method by which liposomes are compromised by freeze-drying are largely unknown. This technique has shown that cryo-protectants such as glycerol and carbohydrates are able to maintain liposomal structure throughout the drying process.
Three major factors must be concomitantly assessed in order to extract relevant structural information from the surface of biological material at high resolution (2-3nm).Procedures based on chemical fixation and dehydration in graded solvent series seem inappropriate when aiming for TEM-like resolution. Cells inevitably shrink up to 30-70% of their initial volume during gehydration; important surface components e.g. glycoproteins may be lost. These problems may be circumvented by preparation techniques based on cryofixation. Freezedrying and freeze-substitution followed by critical point drying yields improved structural preservation in TEM. An appropriate preservation of dimensional integrity may be achieved by freeze-drying at - 85° C. The sample shrinks and may partially collapse as it is warmed to room temperature for subsequent SEM study. Observations at low temperatures are therefore a necessary prerequisite for high fidelity SEM. Compromises however have been unavoidable up until now. Aldehyde prefixation is frequently needed prior to freeze drying, rendering the sample resistant to treatment with distilled water.
Much of the work reported in the literature on cellulose acetate reverse osmosis membranes has raised new and important questions with regard to the dense or “active” layer of these membranes. Several thickness values and structures have been attributed to the dense layer. To ensure the correct interpretation of the cellulose acetate structure thirteen different preparative techniques have been used in this investigation. These thirteen methods included various combinations of water substitution, freeze drying, freeze sectioning, fracturing, embedding, and microtomy techniques with both transmission and scanning electron microscope observations.It was observed that several factors can cause a distortion of the structure during sample preparation. The most obvious problem of water removal can cause swelling, shrinking, and folds. Improper removal of embedding materials, when used, can cause a loss of electron image contrast and, or structure which could hinder interpretation.
The beautiful three dimensional representation of small object surfaces by the SEM leads one to search for ways to open up the sample and look inside. Could this be the answer to a better microscopy for gross biological 3-D structure? We know from X-Ray microscope images that Freeze Drying and Critical Point Drying give promise of adequately preserving gross structure. Can we slice such preparations open for SEM inspection? In general these preparations crush more readily than they slice. Russell and Dagihlian got around the problem by “deembedding” a section before imaging. This some what defeats the advantages of direct dry preparation, thus we are reluctant to accept it as the final solution to our problem. Alternatively, consider fig 1 wherein a freeze dried onion root has a window cut in its surface by a micromanipulator during observation in the SEM.