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J Bacteriol. 2017 Jun 12. pii: JB.00100-17. doi: 10.1128/JB.00100-17. [Epub ahead of print]

Uncharacterized bacterial structures revealed by electron cryotomography.

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Hampshire College, 893 West St., Amherst, MA 01002.
California Institute of Technology, 1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91125.
University at Albany, SUNY, 135 Western Avenue, Albany, NY. 12203.
University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M, Denmark.
National University of Singapore, 21 Lower Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119077.
Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, 3333 Green Bay Rd., North Chicago, IL 60064.
City of Hope, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte, CA 91010.
Leiden University, Sylvius Laboratories, Sylviusweg 72, 2333 BE, Leiden, Netherlands.
University of Montreal, C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
ETH Zurich, Otto-Stern-Weg 5, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland.
California Institute of Technology, 1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91125
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91125.


Electron cryotomography (ECT) can reveal the native structure and arrangement of macromolecular complexes inside intact cells. This technique has greatly advanced our understanding of the ultrastructure of bacterial cells. Rather than undifferentiated bags of enzymes, we now view bacteria as structurally complex assemblies of macromolecular machines. To date, our group has applied ECT to nearly 90 different bacterial species, collecting more than 15,000 cryotomograms. In addition to known structures, we have observed several, to our knowledge, uncharacterized features in these tomograms. Some are completely novel structures; others expand the features or species range of known structure types. Here we present a survey of these uncharacterized bacterial structures in the hopes of accelerating their identification and study, and furthering our understanding of the structural complexity of bacterial cells.IMPORTANCE Bacteria are more structurally complex than is commonly appreciated and we present here a number of interesting structures that will initiate new lines of research investigating their identities and roles.

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