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Cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) has emerged as perhaps the only practical technique for revealing nanometer-level three-dimensional structural details of subcellular macromolecular complexes in their native context, inside the cell. As currently practiced, the specimen should be 0.1- 0.2 microns in thickness to achieve optimal resolution. Thus, application of cryo-ET to intact frozen (vitreous) tissues, such as skeletal muscle, requires that they be sectioned. Cryo-ultramicrotomy is notoriously difficult and artifact-prone when applied to frozen cells and tissue, but a new technique, focused ion beam milling (cryo-FIB), shows great promise for “thinning” frozen biological specimens. Here we describe our initial results in applying cryo-FIB and cryo-ET to triad junctions of skeletal muscle.
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