Seeing Atoms: Single-Particle Cryo-EM Breaks the Atomic Barrier

Mol Cell. 2020 Dec 17;80(6):938-939. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2020.11.043.


The goal of structural biology is to understand biological macromolecules in as much detail as possible. Depending on the resolution of the structure obtained, insights will range from understanding interactions at the level of proteins, domains, or atoms. The three mainstay structural biology techniques are X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging, and cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM). Cryo-EM has rapidly gained popularity in recent years due to a combination of hardware and software advances, leading to the so-called Resolution Revolution (Kühlbrandt, 2014).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cryoelectron Microscopy*
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Molecular Biology / methods*
  • Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Software


  • Proteins