Zachs, Tobias / Schertel, Andreas / Medeiros, João / Weiss, Gregor L. / Hugener, Jannik / Matos, Joao / Pilhofer, Martin. Fully automated, sequential focused ion beam milling for cryo-electron tomography. 2020-03, eLife, Vol. 9, 52286
Cryo-electron tomography (cryoET) has become a powerful technique at the interface of structural biology and cell biology, due to its unique ability for imaging cells in their native state and determining structures of macromolecular complexes in their cellular context. A limitation of cryoET is its restriction to relatively thin samples. Sample thinning by cryo-focused ion beam (cryoFIB) milling has significantly expanded the range of samples that can be analyzed by cryoET. Unfortunately, cryoFIB milling is low-throughput, time-consuming and manual. Here, we report a method for fully automated sequential cryoFIB preparation of high-quality lamellae, including rough milling and polishing. We reproducibly applied this method to eukaryotic and bacterial model organisms, and show that the resulting lamellae are suitable for cryoET imaging and subtomogram averaging. Since our method reduces the time required for lamella preparation and minimizes the need for user input, we envision the technique will render previously inaccessible projects feasible.