Chemical Journal of Chinese Universities ›› 2020, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (11): 2335-2344.doi: 10.7503/cjcu20200323

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Developments of in situ Cryo-electron Tomography for Biological Applications

ZHAO Guanfang1,2, ZOU Tianyi1,2, CHENG Sihang1,2, YU Yang1,2, WANG Huili1, WANG Hongda1,2()   

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Electroanalytical Chemistry,Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry,Chinese Academy of Sciences,Changchun 130022,China
    2.University of Science and Technology of China,Hefei 230026,China
  • Received:2020-06-04 Online:2020-11-10 Published:2020-11-06
  • Contact: WANG Hongda
  • Supported by:
    ? Supported by the National Key Research and Development Project of China(2017YFA0505300);the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21525314)


The study and structural analysis of biological macromolecular complexes are crucial for a comprehensive understanding of their function and biological significance. The cryo-electron microscopy has become the mainstream technology for providing information about the structure and distribution of macromolecules in biology. In addition, the advancement of hardware and software in rencet years has further improved the effectiveness of cryo-electron microscopy, making it more accurate and faster to analyze various biological structures and proteins. However, for biological systems, proteins or macromolecular complexes are in a complex physiological environment, so in situ detection of the 3D biological structures is crucial for biological system and structural biology. As a powerful technology, cryo-electron tomography can rely on the intrinsic contrast of frozen samples to identify the structure of biological macromolecules directly without marking, and can perform 3D imaging with nano-resolution in their native environment. In this review, we summerized the methods of sample preparation and technical aspects relevant for cryo-electron tomography as well as the biological applications from isolated macromolecular complexes to entire cells and tissues.

Key words: Biological macromolecular complex, Cryo-electron tomography, In situ, Biological application

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