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In-focus electron microscopy of frozen-hydrated biological samples with a Boersch phase plate

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Barton,  B.
Department of Structural Biology, Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Max Planck Society;

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Rhinow,  D.
Department of Structural Biology, Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Max Planck Society;

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Walter,  A.
Department of Structural Biology, Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Max Planck Society;

Schröder,  R.
Max Planck Society;

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Kühlbrandt,  W.
Department of Structural Biology, Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Barton, B., Rhinow, D., Walter, A., Schröder, R., Benner, G., Majorovits, E., et al. (2011). In-focus electron microscopy of frozen-hydrated biological samples with a Boersch phase plate. Ultramicroscopy, 111, 1696-1705.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0024-D643-A
Abstract
We report the implementation of an electrostatic Einzel lens (Boersch) phase plate in a prototype transmission electron microscope dedicated to aberration-corrected cryo-EM. The combination of phase plate, Cs corrector and Diffraction Magnification Unit (DMU) as a new electron-optical element ensures minimal information loss due to obstruction by the phase plate and enables in-focus phase contrast imaging of large macromolecular assemblies. As no defocussing is necessary and the spherical aberration is corrected, maximal, non-oscillating phase contrast transfer can be achieved up to the information limit of the instrument. A microchip produced by a scalable micro-fabrication process has 10 phase plates, which are positioned in a conjugate, magnified diffraction plane generated by the DMU. Phase plates remained fully functional for weeks or months. The large distance between phase plate and the cryo sample permits the use of an effective anti-contaminator, resulting in ice contamination rates of <0.6nm/h at the specimen. Maximal in-focus phase contrast was obtained by applying voltages between 80 and 700 mV to the phase plate electrode. The phase plate allows for in-focus imaging of biological objects with a signal-to-noise of 5–10 at a resolution of 2–3 nm, as demonstrated for frozen- hydrated virus particles and purple membrane at liquid-nitrogen temperature.