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Helmholtz Munich I Daniela Barreto

Cryo-ET Sheds Light on Inner Working of Cells

Featured Publication, Pioneer Campus,

A recent review published in Current Opinion in Cell Biology, authored by Jonathan Schneider and Dr. Marion Jasnin from the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus at Helmholtz Munich, illuminates the capabilities of cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) in unraveling the intricate molecular interactions within cells.

Cryo-ET represents a significant advancement in cell imaging technology, enabling researchers to explore the three-dimensional architecture of cells with unprecedented detail. Unlike traditional methods, cryo-ET allows for the visualization of macromolecules within their native cellular environment, providing insights into the spatial arrangement and interactions of cellular components.

Exploring Dynamics Within Cells

While cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) has revolutionized the analysis of macromolecular structures, cryo-ET goes a step further by capturing these structures within the context of the cell, thus facilitating a deeper understanding of the “molecular sociology of the cell”.

The review particularly highlights the application of cryo-ET in studying the actin cytoskeleton, shedding light on its organization and dynamics within cells. Despite challenges in detecting short or crosslinked filaments in dense cellular compartments, ongoing research is rapidly advancing automated data acquisition, reconstruction techniques, and sample preparation procedures, promising further breakthroughs in the field.

The actin cytoskeleton is a dynamic network of protein filaments within cells that provides structural support, facilitates cell movement, and plays a crucial role in various cellular processes such as cell division and signaling.

In the realm of actin research, cryo-ET is poised to uncover previously elusive structures such as nuclear actin filaments, offering insights into critical cellular processes including adhesion, migration, and invasion. Moreover, advancements in cryo-ET technology are paving the way for high-throughput analysis of larger and more complex samples, including organoids and tissues.

Accelerating Scientific Discovery

The integration of cryo-ET with computational tools, particularly deep learning algorithms, is anticipated to accelerate scientific discovery by enabling large-scale studies and meaningful analysis of rich cellular tomograms (three-dimensional images or reconstructions of cells). As cryo-ET continues to evolve, it promises to transform the understanding of cellular dynamics and pave the way for innovative discoveries in cell biology.


Original publication

Schneider and Jasnin 2024: Molecular architecture of the actin cytoskeleton: From single cells to whole organisms using cryo-electron tomography. Current Opinion in Cell Biology. DOI: 10.1016/

About the scientist

Dr. Marion Jasnin, Principal Investigator, Cryoskeleton Lab at the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus (HPC) at Helmholtz Munich