Cryo-Electron Microscopic Grid Preparation for Time-Resolved Studies using a Novel Robotic System, Spotiton

J Vis Exp. 2021 Feb 25:(168). doi: 10.3791/62271.


The capture of short-lived molecular states triggered by the early encounter of two or more interacting particles continues to be an experimental challenge of great interest to the field of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). A few methodological strategies have been developed that support these "time-resolved" studies, one of which, Spotiton-a novel robotic system-combines the dispensing of picoliter-sized sample droplets with precise temporal and spatial control. The time-resolved Spotiton workflow offers a uniquely efficient approach to interrogate early structural rearrangements from minimal sample volume. Fired from independently controlled piezoelectric dispensers, two samples land and rapidly mix on a nanowire EM grid as it plunges toward the cryogen. Potentially hundreds of grids can be prepared in rapid succession from only a few microliters of a sample. Here, a detailed step-by-step protocol of the operation of the Spotiton system is presented with a focus on troubleshooting specific problems that arise during grid preparation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / methods*
  • Freezing
  • Humidity
  • Robotics*
  • Software
  • Time Factors
  • User-Computer Interface