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Trends Cell Biol. 1999 Apr;9(4):154-9.

High-resolution electron cryomicroscopy of macromolecular assemblies.

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Verna and Marrs McLean Dept of Biochemistry and National Center for Macromolecular Imaging, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Electron cryomicroscopy is a high-resolution imaging technique that is particularly appropriate for the structural determination of large macromolecular assemblies, which are difficult to study by X-ray crystallography or NMR spectroscopy. For some biological molecules that form two-dimensional crystals, the application of electron cryomicroscopy and image reconstruction can help elucidate structures at atomic resolution. In instances where crystals cannot be formed, atomic-resolution information can be obtained by combining high-resolution structures of individual components determined by X-ray crystallography or NMR with image-derived reconstructions at moderate resolution. This can provide unique and crucial information on the mechanisms of these complexes. Finally, image reconstructions can be used to augment X-ray studies by providing initial models that facilitate phasing of crystals of large macromolecular machines such as ribosomes and viruses.

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