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Electron Microscopy Facility

The Electron Microscopy Facility in Chelsea brings together a combination of instrumentation and expertise that supports the determination of three-dimensional protein complexes structures by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM).

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Image: Cryo-EM sample preparation Vitrobot system at the ICR's Electron Microscopy Facility. Credits: ICR

Cryo-electron microscopy has become the dominant technique for protein structure determination in the field of structural biology. The Institute of Cancer Research, London, has long been a pioneer in the field of structural biology and a leading international institution in the use of cryo-EM in cancer research.

Our Electron Microscopy Facility, based in our labs in Chelsea, houses three ThermoFisher Scientific transmission electron microscopes (TEM) – a Tecnai T12 spirit, a Tecnai F20 and a Glacios. It is open primarily to internal users, although also welcomes outside fee-paying users.

The Tecnai T12 microscope is used mostly for sample screening in negative stain, training, and trial studies in cryo-electron microscopy.  

The Tecnai F20 microscope is dedicated to the data collection by fully trained users of the Division of Structural Biology both in negative stain and cryo-electron microscopy to moderate resolution.

The state-of-the-art Glacios is dedicated to the data collection of high-resolution data in cryo-electron microscopy and operates at 200 kV. Our Glacios is now equipped with a Falcon 4i direct detector, the first installed in the UK, with higher signal quality and allowing higher throughput.

Our researchers also have access to the ThermoFisher Scientific Titan Krios cryo-EM advanced electron microscope based at the Francis Crick Institute in London, via our membership of LonCEM, the London consortium for cryo-EM – of which the ICR is one of the founding members. Researchers in the ICR’s Division of Structural Biology also have frequent access to the UK national facility at Diamond Light Source (eBIC) through a block allocation group.

In both these facilities the ICR researchers collect data for high-resolution protein structure determination on ThermoFisher Titan Krios 300 kV cryo-electron microscopes.

In-house we also have several pieces of equipment for sample preparation, including: Pelco easiglow, Tergeo plasma cleaner, Edwards auto 306 carbon coater, Vitrobot mark IV, Two Gatan 626 cryo-holders, Gatan 655 dry pumping station. We also offer training and advise to students and postdocs in the use of microscopes.

“Our state-of-the-art Electron Microscopy Facility is a vital component of our research infrastructure and key to training the next generation of Structural Biologists.”

Professor Sebastian Guettler

Team Leader, Structural Biology of Cell Signalling

For more information, please contact our facility manager, Dr Fabienne Beuron

  • Glacios

    The Glacios Cryo-TEM is designed to be integrated in a single particle analysis workflow for sample evaluation and optimisation before high-resolution data acquisition. The data acquisition can occur directly on the Glacios, a Krios Cryo-TEM (LonCEM or eBIC).

  • Tecnai TF20

    The Tecnai TF20 is a 200 kV high resolution TEM, suitable for cryo single particles and semi-thick frozen cells or extract. It enables users to screen samples and obtain preliminary data prior to more detailed analysis on the higher specification Glacios TEM.

  • Tecnai T12

    The Tecnai Spirit TWIN is a general-purpose 120 kV TEM for screening and training purposes at both ambient and cryogenic conditions.

  • Tergeo plasma cleaner

    The plasma cleaner uses a mixture of gases to make TEM grid hydrophilic for cryo-EM applications. Unique gentle downstream mode and pulsed plasma can handle ultra-thin carbon and graphene grids without damaging the fragile grids.

  • Vitrobot mark IV

    Plunge freezing, humidity controlled and automated system (ThermoFisher) for preparation of thin vitreous ice for the structure determination of single particles by cryo-EM.

  • Pelco easiglow

    Fully automated system allowing for cleaning and hydrophilisation of carbon support films TEM grids for preparation of TEM grids for negative stain or cryo-EM.

  • Edwards auto 306 carbon coater

    The evaporator is used primarily for evaporating carbon on to mica supports. The thin carbon produced is then floated in house onto TEM grids ready for the adsorption of protein complexes for their observation in negative staining or cryo-EM.

  • Gatan 655 dry pumping station (with two 626 cryo-holders)

    The pumping station is designed to regenerate sorb material in the 626 cryo-holders to allow for the best temperature and stability performance. The 626 single tilt liquid nitrogen cryo-transfer holder is designed for low temperature transfer and subsequent screening and data collection in the Tecnai 12 or TF20.