Platinum replica electron microscopy: Imaging the cytoskeleton globally and locally

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2017 May;86:37-41. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2017.03.009. Epub 2017 Mar 18.


Structural studies reveal how smaller components of a system work together as a whole. However, combining high resolution of details with full coverage of the whole is challenging. In cell biology, light microscopy can image many cells in their entirety, but at a lower resolution, whereas electron microscopy affords very high resolution, but usually at the expense of the sample size and coverage. Structural analyses of the cytoskeleton are especially demanding, because cytoskeletal networks are unresolvable by light microscopy due to their density and intricacy, whereas their proper preservation is a challenge for electron microscopy. Platinum replica electron microscopy can uniquely bridge the gap between the "comfort zones" of light and electron microscopy by allowing high resolution imaging of the cytoskeleton throughout the entire cell and in many cells in the population. This review describes the principles and applications of platinum replica electron microscopy for studies of the cytoskeleton.

Keywords: Actin filaments; Cytoskeleton; Electron microscopy; Platinum replica; Tomography.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods*
  • Platinum*


  • Platinum