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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2009 Feb;21(1):89-96. doi: 10.1016/

Probing the macromolecular organization of cells by electron tomography.

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Boulder Laboratory for 3-Dimensional Electron Microscopy of Cells and Molecules, Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0347, USA.


A major goal in cell biology is to understand the functional organization of macromolecular complexes in vivo. Electron microscopy is helping cell biologists to achieve this goal, thanks to its ability to resolve structural details in the nanometer range. While issues related to specimen preparation, imaging, and image interpretation make this approach to cell architecture difficult, recent improvements in methods, equipment, and software have facilitated the study of both important macromolecular complexes and comparatively large volumes from cellular specimens. Here, we describe recent progress in electron microscopy of cells and the ways in which the relevant methodologies are helping to elucidate cell architecture.

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