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A primary cilium is a hair-like structure with a width of approximately 200 nm. Over the past few decades, the main challenge in the study of the ultrastructure of cilia has been the high sensitivity of cilia to chemical fixation, which is required for many imaging techniques. In this report, we demonstrate a combined high-pressure freezing (HPF) and freeze-fracture transmission electron microscopy (FFTEM) technique to examine the ultrastructure of a cilium. Our objective is to develop an optimal high-resolution imaging approach that preserves cilia structures in their best natural form without alteration of cilia morphology by chemical fixation interference. Our results showed that a cilium has a swelling-like structure (termed bulb), which was previously considered a fixation artifact. The intramembrane particles observed via HPF/FFTEM indicated the presence of integral membrane proteins and soluble matrix proteins along the ciliary bulb, which is part of an integral structure within the ciliary membrane. We propose that HPF/FFTEM is an important and more suitable chemical-free method to study the ultrastructure of primary cilia.


This article was originally published in Scientific Reports, volume 5, in 2015. DOI: 10.1038/srep15982


Nature Publishing Group

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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