pISSN 2288-6982
eISSN 2288-7105



Mini review

BioDesign 2023; 11(3): 33-38

Published online September 30, 2023

© Korean Society for Structural Biology

Cryo-electron tomography: a triumphant breakthrough in structural biology

Han-ul Kim1,2, Mi Young An1 and Hyun Suk Jung1,2,*

1Department of Biochemistry, College of Natural Sciences, Kangwon National University, Chuncheon 24341, Republic of Korea
2Kangwon Center for Systems Imaging, Chuncheon 24341, Republic of Korea

Correspondence to: *

Received: August 8, 2023; Revised: August 31, 2023; Accepted: September 3, 2023


Cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) has been offering impressive insights into the structures of macromolecules in the field of structural biology as a result of recent advancements in hardware and software technologies. This breakthrough has greatly aided our understanding of the cellular mechanisms of proteins and has triggered the dawn of an unprecedented golden age in structural biology. However, the technique still has inherent limitations owing to the dynamic tendency and tangled interactions of biomolecules. Attempts to overcome these limitations have led to the emergence of cryo-electron tomography (Cryo-ET) as a powerful technique in the field of structural biology, allowing for the three-dimensional visualization of the native conformation of biological specimens. This promising electron microscopy method has revolutionized our grasp of complex structures and their dynamic interactions, thereby providing unprecedented insights into the organization and function of macromolecular complexes within their native cellular environments. In this paper, we review state-of-the-art cryo-ET workflows, provide examples of biological applications, and discuss the fundamental necessity of boosting the potential applications of cryo-ET.