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Electron cryotomography (cryo-ET) is an imaging technique uniquely suited to the study of bacterial ultrastructure and cell biology. Recent years have seen a surge in structural and cell biology research on bacteria using cryo-ET. This research has driven major technical developments in the field, with applications emerging to address a wide range of biological questions. In this review, we explore the diversity of cryo-ET approaches used for structural and cellular microbiology, with a focus on in situ localization and structure determination of macromolecules. The first section describes strategies employed to locate target macromolecules within large cellular volumes. Next, we explore methods to study thick specimens by sample thinning. Finally, we review examples of macromolecular structure determination in a cellular context using cryo-ET. The examples outlined serve as powerful demonstrations of how the cellular location, structure, and function of any bacterial macromolecule of interest can be investigated using cryo-ET.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochimica et biophysica acta

Publication Date





973 - 981


Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3RE, United Kingdom.