We have developed a system to automatically acquire cryo-electron micrographs. The system is designed to emulate all of the decisions and actions of a highly trained microscopist in collecting data from a vitreous ice specimen. These include identifying suitable areas of vitreous ice at low magnification, determining the presence and location of specimen on the grid, automatically adjusting imaging parameters (focus, astigmatism) under low-dose conditions, and acquiring images at high magnification to either film or a digital camera. This system is responsible for every aspect of image acquisition and can run unattended, other than requiring periodic refilling of the cryogens, for over 24 h. The system has been tested out on a variety of specimens that represent typical challenges in the field of cryo-electron microscopy. The results show that the overall performance of the system is equivalent to that of an experienced microscopist.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.