Probing intracellular vesicle trafficking and membrane remodelling by cryo-EM

J Struct Biol. 2022 Mar;214(1):107836. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2022.107836. Epub 2022 Jan 31.


Protein transport between the membranous compartments of the eukaryotic cells is mediated by the constant fission and fusion of the membrane-bounded vesicles from a donor to an acceptor membrane. While there are many membrane remodelling complexes in eukaryotes, COPII, COPI, and clathrin-coated vesicles are the three principal classes of coat protein complexes that participate in vesicle trafficking in the endocytic and secretory pathways. These vesicle-coat proteins perform two key functions: deforming lipid bilayers into vesicles and encasing selective cargoes. The three trafficking complexes share some commonalities in their structural features but differ in their coat structures, mechanisms of cargo sorting, vesicle formation, and scission. While the structures of many of the proteins involved in vesicle formation have been determined in isolation by X-ray crystallography, elucidating the proteins' structures together with the membrane is better suited for cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM). In recent years, advances in cryo-EM have led to solving the structures and mechanisms of several vesicle trafficking complexes and associated proteins.

Keywords: Membrane remodelling; Three-dimensional reconstruction; Tomography; Vesicle trafficking; cryo-EM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coat Protein Complex I* / chemistry
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Membranes / metabolism
  • Protein Transport


  • Coat Protein Complex I