Improving structural integrity of cryosections for immunogold labeling

Histochem Cell Biol. 1996 Jul;106(1):41-58. doi: 10.1007/BF02473201.


Cryosections of aldehyde-fixed material prepared according to Tokuyasu are a good substrate for immunocytochemistry. However, structural defects occur that limit the resolution of this approach. We found that the step during which sections are thawed and transferred from the cryochamber to the supporting film on an EM grid is most critical for structural preservation. Surface tension of the transfer medium, on which sections are spread during thawing, can easily damage their structure by overstretching. By substituting a mixture of methylcellulose and sucrose for the conventional sucrose transfer medium, we were able to alleviate the problem of overstretching, thus improving greatly the structural integrity of thin cryosections. Also, material extraction from the sections after thawing causes structural damage, particularly when cross-linking is deficient. Incorporation of uranyl acetate in the transfer medium can then further help to maintain the structural integrity of the sections during the immunolabeling procedure. Excellent ultrastructure was featured in sections picked up and dried directly in methylcellulose/uranyl acetate mixtures. Such preparations can provide new insight into subcellular details and is an efficient back-up for immunolabeled sections in respect of their morphology. Cryosections from fresh frozen tissue can be preserved for immunolabeling by using transfer media that contain fixatives. This approach may have advantages if chemical fixation of tissue is thought to induce morphological artifacts or antigen redistribution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cryoultramicrotomy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods*