DOI: 10.1111/mmi.15213 ISSN: 0950-382X

An introduction to scanning transmission electron microscopy for the study of protozoans

Sylvain Trépout, Marie‐Laure Sgarra, Sergio Marco, Georg Ramm
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology


Since its inception in the 1930s, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) has been a powerful method to explore the cellular structure of parasites. TEM usually requires samples of <100 nm thick and with protozoans being larger than 1 μm, their study requires resin embedding and ultrathin sectioning. During the past decade, several new methods have been developed to improve, facilitate, and speed up the structural characterisation of biological samples, offering new imaging modalities for the study of protozoans. In particular, scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) can be used to observe sample sections as thick as 1 μm thus becoming an alternative to conventional TEM. STEM can also be performed under cryogenic conditions in combination with cryo‐electron tomography providing access to the study of thicker samples in their native hydrated states in 3D. This method, called cryo‐scanning transmission electron tomography (cryo‐STET), was first developed in 2014. This review presents the basic concepts and benefits of STEM methods and provides examples to illustrate the potential for new insights into the structure and ultrastructure of protozoans.

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