Cellular Electron Cryo-Tomography to Study Virus-Host Interactions

Annu Rev Virol. 2020 Sep 29;7(1):239-262. doi: 10.1146/annurev-virology-021920-115935. Epub 2020 Jul 6.


Viruses are obligatory intracellular parasites that reprogram host cells upon infection to produce viral progeny. Here, we review recent structural insights into virus-host interactions in bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes unveiled by cellular electron cryo-tomography (cryoET). This advanced three-dimensional imaging technique of vitreous samples in near-native state has matured over the past two decades and proven powerful in revealing molecular mechanisms underlying viral replication. Initial studies were restricted to cell peripheries and typically focused on early infection steps, analyzing surface proteins and viral entry. Recent developments including cryo-thinning techniques, phase-plate imaging, and correlative approaches have been instrumental in also targeting rare events inside infected cells. When combined with advances in dedicated image analyses and processing methods, details of virus assembly and egress at (sub)nanometer resolution were uncovered. Altogether, we provide a historical and technical perspective and discuss future directions and impacts of cryoET for integrative structural cell biology analyses of viruses.

Keywords: archaea; bacteria; high-resolution microscopy; structure; virus replication cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / methods*
  • Electron Microscope Tomography / methods*
  • Host Microbial Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / instrumentation
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Virus Replication
  • Viruses / ultrastructure