Freeze substitution in 3 hours or less

J Microsc. 2011 Sep;243(3):227-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2818.2011.03526.x.


Freeze substitution is a process for low temperature dehydration and fixation of rapidly frozen cells that usually takes days to complete. New methods for freeze substitution have been developed that require only basic laboratory tools: a platform shaker, liquid nitrogen, a metal block with holes for cryotubes and an insulated container such as an ice bucket. With this equipment, excellent freeze substitution results can be obtained in as little as 90 min for cells of small volume such as bacteria and tissue culture cells. For cells of greater volume or that have significant diffusion barriers such as cuticles or thick cell walls, one can extend the time to 3 h or more with dry ice. The 3-h method works well for all manner of specimens, including plants and Caenorhabditis elegans as well as smaller samples. Here, we present the basics of the techniques and some results from Nicotiana leaves, C. elegans adult worms, Escherichia coli and baby hamster kidney tissue culture cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / radiation effects
  • Cricetinae
  • Escherichia coli / radiation effects
  • Freeze Substitution / methods*
  • Kidney / radiation effects
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco / radiation effects