Capturing enveloped viruses on affinity grids for downstream cryo-electron microscopy applications

Microsc Microanal. 2014 Feb;20(1):164-74. doi: 10.1017/S1431927613013937. Epub 2013 Nov 26.


Electron microscopy (EM), cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), and cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) are essential techniques used for characterizing basic virus morphology and determining the three-dimensional structure of viruses. Enveloped viruses, which contain an outer lipoprotein coat, constitute the largest group of pathogenic viruses to humans. The purification of enveloped viruses from cell culture presents certain challenges. Specifically, the inclusion of host-membrane-derived vesicles, the complete destruction of the viruses, and the disruption of the internal architecture of individual virus particles. Here, we present a strategy for capturing enveloped viruses on affinity grids (AG) for use in both conventional EM and cryo-EM/ET applications. We examined the utility of AG for the selective capture of human immunodeficiency virus virus-like particles, influenza A, and measles virus. We applied nickel-nitrilotriacetic acid lipid layers in combination with molecular adaptors to selectively adhere the viruses to the AG surface. This further development of the AG method may prove essential for the gentle and selective purification of enveloped viruses directly onto EM grids for ultrastructural analyses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / methods*
  • Nitrilotriacetic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Virion / chemistry
  • Virion / isolation & purification*
  • Viruses / chemistry
  • Viruses / isolation & purification*


  • Organometallic Compounds
  • nickel nitrilotriacetic acid
  • Nitrilotriacetic Acid