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Electron cryo-tomography (cryoET) is currently the only technique that allows the direct observation of proteins in their native cellular environment. Sub-volume averaging of electron tomograms offers a route to increase the signal-to-noise of repetitive biological structures, such improving the information content and interpretability of tomograms. We discuss the potential for sub-volume averaging in highlighting and investigating specific processes in situ, focusing on microtubule structure and viral infection. We show that (i) in situ sub-volume averaging from single tomograms can guide and complement segmentation of biological features, (ii) the in situ determination of the structure of individual viruses is possible as they infect a cell, and (iii) novel, transient processes can be imaged with high levels of detail.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of structural biology

Publication Date





181 - 190


Oxford Particle Imaging Centre, Division of Structural Biology, Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX3 7BN, United Kingdom.