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Les échantillons biologiques ne s’arrangent pas toujours en objets ordonnés (cristaux 2D ou hélices) nécessaires pour la microscopie électronique ni en cristaux 3D parfaitement ordonnés pour la cristallographie rayons X alors que de nombreux spécimens sont tout simplement trop
Many biological specimens do not arrange themselves in ordered assemblies (tubular or flat 2D crystals) suitable for electron crystallography, nor in perfectly ordered 3D crystals for X-ray diffraction; many other are simply too large to be approached by NMR spectroscopy. Therefore, single-particles analysis has become a progressively more important technique for structural determination of large isolated macromolecules by cryo-electron microscopy. Nevertheless, the low signal-to-noise ratio and the high electron-beam sensitivity of biological samples remain two main resolution-limiting factors, when the specimens are observed in their native state. Cryo-negative staining is a recently developed technique that allows the study of biological samples with the electron microscope. The samples are observed at low temperature, in the vitrified state, but in presence of a stain (ammonium molybdate). In the present work, the advantages of this novel technique are investigated: it is shown that cryo-negative staining can generally overcome most of the problems encountered with cryo-electron microscopy of vitrified native suspension of biological particles. The specimens are faithfully represented with a 10-times higher SNR than in the case of unstained samples. Beam-damage is found to be considerably reduced by comparison of multiple-exposure series of both stained and unstained samples. The present report also demonstrates that cryo-negative staining is capable of high- resolution analysis of biological macromolecules. The vitrified stain solution surrounding the sample does not forbid the access to the interna1 features (ie. the secondary structure) of a protein. This finding is of direct interest for the structural biologist trying to combine electron microscopy and X-ray data. developed electron microscopy technique. Finally, several application examples demonstrate the advantages of this newly