Using size-selected gold clusters on graphene oxide films to aid cryo-transmission electron tomography alignment

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  • University of Bristol


A three-dimensional reconstruction of a nano-scale aqueous object can be achieved by taking a series of transmission electron micrographs tilted at different angles in vitreous ice: cryo-Transmission Electron Tomography. Presented here is a novel method of fine alignment for the tilt series. Size-selected gold clusters of ~2.7 nm (Au561 ± 14), ~3.2 nm (Au923 ± 22), and ~4.3 nm (Au2057 ± 45) in diameter were deposited onto separate graphene oxide films overlaying holes on amorphous carbon grids. After plunge freezing and subsequent transfer to cryo-Transmission Electron Tomography, the resulting tomograms have excellent (de-)focus and alignment properties during automatic acquisition. Fine alignment is accurate when the evenly distributed 3.2 nm gold particles are used as fiducial markers, demonstrated with a reconstruction of a tobacco mosaic virus. Using a graphene oxide film means the fiducial markers are not interfering with the ice bound sample and that automated collection is consistent. The use of pre-deposited size-selected clusters means there is no aggregation and a user defined concentration. The size-selected clusters are mono-dispersed and can be produced in a wide size range including 2–5 nm in diameter. The use of size-selected clusters on a graphene oxide films represents a significant technical advance for 3D cryo-electron microscopy.


Original languageEnglish
Article number9234
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2015