Membrane protein structure determination using cryo-electron tomography and 3D image averaging

Alberto Bartesaghi, Sriram Subramaniam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The vast majority of membrane protein complexes of biological interest cannot be purified to homogeneity, or removed from a physiologically relevant context without loss of function. It is therefore not possible to easily determine the 3D structures of these protein complexes using X-ray crystallography or conventional cryo-electron microscopy. Newly emerging methods that combine cryo-electron tomography with 3D image classification and averaging are, however, beginning to provide unique opportunities for in situ determination of the structures of membrane protein assemblies in intact cells and nonsymmetric viruses. Here we review recent progress in this field and assess the potential of these methods to describe the conformation of membrane proteins in their native environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)402-407
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Structural Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Structural Biology


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