Schreiber, Makoto Tokoro / Maigné, Alan / Beleggia, Marco / Shibata, Satoshi / Wolf, Matthias. Temporal dynamics of charge buildup in cryo-electron microscopy. 2023. J. Structural Biology: X, Vol. 7, p. 100081
It is well known that insulating samples can accumulate electric charges from exposure to an electron beam. How the accumulation of charge affects imaging parameters and sample stability in transmission electron microscopy is poorly understood. To quantify these effects, it is important to know how the charge is distributed within the sample and how it builds up over time. In the present study, we determine the spatial distribution and temporal dynamics of charge accumulation on vitreous ice samples with embedded proteins through a combination of modeling and Fresnel diffraction experiments. Our data reveal a rapid evolution of the charge state on ice upon initial exposure to the electron beam accompanied by charge gradients at the interfaces between ice and carbon films. We demonstrate that ice film movement and charge state variations occur upon electron beam exposure and are dose-rate dependent. Both affect the image defocus through a combination of sample height changes and lensing effects. Our results may be used as a guide to improve sample preparation, data collection, and data processing for imaging of dose-sensitive samples.