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In recent years, bioinorganic nanohybrids composed of biological macromolecules and functional inorganic nanomaterials have revealed many unique properties that show promise for the future. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is a popular and relatively simple tool that can offer a direct visualization of the nanomaterials with high resolutions. When TEM is applied to visualize bioinorganic nanohybrids, a treatment of negative staining is necessary due to the presence of biological molecules in the nanohybrids except for those with densely packed inorganic materials. However, the conventional negative-staining procedure for regular biological samples cannot be directly applied to such bioinorganic nanohybrids. To image a specific bioinorganic nanohybrid, negative-staining factors such as negative stain type, working pH, staining time, and drying method, should be identified. Currently, no detailed studies have been done to investigate how to adjust negative-staining factors based on specific bioinorganic nanohybrids. In this study, bacteriophage-gold nanoparticle hybrids were chosen as a model to systematically study the effects of each factor on the negative staining of the nanohybrids. The best staining conditions for gold nanoparticle-phage nanohybrids were obtained and the effects of each factor on the negative staining of general nanohybrids were discussed. This work indicates that with proper staining it is possible to use TEM to visualize directly both biological and inorganic components without introducing any artifact. Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.


Binrui Cao, Hong Xu, Chuanbin Mao. Transmission electron microscopy as a tool to image bioinorganic nanohybrids: the case of phage-gold nanocomposites. Microscopy research and technique. 2011 Jul;74(7):627-35

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PMID: 21678527

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