A basis for the interpretation of the structure of the cell membrane is often looked for in electron microscope investigations on the structure of lipid models. A difficulty in these investigations is our lack of knowledge of the effect of the preparative treatment on the structure studied. This applies especially to the strongly oxidizing fixatives: osmium tetroxide and potassium permanganate. These agents have, moreover, the drawback that they cannot be used to fix fully saturated lipids. On the basis of existing theories concerning complex colloid systems, a fixation method was developed that allows the electron microscope study of the structure of phospholipid models, irrespective of whether they consist of saturated or unsaturated compounds. With this fixation, namely tricomplex flocculation by means of suitable ions, the structure of the lipid molecules is not altered. Moreover, the site and mode of action of this fixation are well known. The first application of this method to the study of isolated beef brain phospholipids is described.

This content is only available as a PDF.