Rethinking cell structure

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Jun 6;92(12):5251-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.92.12.5251.


Cell structure, emerging from behind the veil of conventional electron microscopy, appears far more complex than formerly realized. The standard plastic-embedded, ultrathin section can image only what is on the section surface and masks the elaborate networks of the cytoplasm and nucleus. Embedment-free electron microscopy gives clear, high-contrast micrographs of cell structure when combined with removal of obscuring material such as soluble proteins. The resinless ultrathin section is the technique of choice; it is simple and inexpensive, and it uses ordinary electron microscopes. The resulting pictures reveal a world of complex cell structure and function. These images necessarily change our conception of the cytoskeleton, nuclear matrix, mitosis, and the relation of membranes to cytostructure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods
  • Mitosis
  • Nuclear Matrix / ultrastructure
  • Organelles / ultrastructure
  • Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Saponins / chemistry


  • Proteins
  • Saponins