UranyLess Low Voltage Transmission Electron Microscopy: A Powerful Tool for Ultrastructural Studying of Cyanobacterial Cells

Sample preparation protocols for conventional high voltage transmission electron microscopy (TEM) heavily rely on the usage of staining agents containing various heavy metals, most commonly uranyl acetate and lead citrate. However high toxicity, rising legal regulations, and problematic waste disposal of uranyl acetate have increased calls for the reduction or even complete replacement of this staining agent. One of the strategies for uranyless imaging is the employment of low-voltage transmission electron microscopy. To investigate the influence of different imaging and staining strategies on the final image of cyanobacterial cells, samples stained by uranyl acetate with lead citrate, as well as unstained samples, were observed using TEM and accelerating voltages of 200 kV or 25 kV. Moreover, to examine the possibilities of reducing chromatic aberration, which often causes issues when imaging using electrons of lower energies, samples were also imaged using a scanning transmission electron microscopy at 15 kV accelerating voltages. The results of this study demonstrate that low-voltage electron microscopy offers great potential for uranyless electron microscopy.

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