Visualizing cellular processes at the molecular level by cryo-electron tomography

Kfir Ben-Harush, Tal Maimon, Israel Patla, Elizabeth Villa, Ohad Medalia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The cellular landscape rapidly changes throughout the biological processes that transpire within a cell. For example, the cytoskeleton is remodeled within fractions of a second. Therefore, reliable structural analysis of the cell requires approaches that allow for instantaneous arrest of functional states of a given process while offering the best possible preservation of the delicate cellular structure. Electron tomography of vitrified but otherwise unaltered cells (cryo-ET) has proven to be the method of choice for three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction of cellular architecture at a resolution of 4-6 nm. Through the use of cryo-ET, the 3D organization of macromolecular complexes and organelles can be studied in their native environment in the cell. In this Commentary, we focus on the application of cryo-ET to study eukaryotic cells - in particular, the cytoskeletal-driven processes that are involved in cell movements, filopodia protrusion and viral entry. Finally, we demonstrate the potential of cryo-ET to determine structures of macromolecular complexes in situ, such as the nuclear pore complex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-12
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Actin
  • Cryo-electron tomography
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Nuclear envelope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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