How cryo-EM is revolutionizing structural biology

Xiao chen Bai, Greg McMullan, Sjors H.W. Scheres

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

519 Scopus citations


For many years, structure determination of biological macromolecules by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) was limited to large complexes or low-resolution models. With recent advances in electron detection and image processing, the resolution by cryo-EM is now beginning to rival X-ray crystallography. A new generation of electron detectors record images with unprecedented quality, while new image-processing tools correct for sample movements and classify images according to different structural states. Combined, these advances yield density maps with sufficient detail to deduce the atomic structure for a range of specimens. Here, we review the recent advances and illustrate the exciting new opportunities that they offer to structural biology research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-57
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in biochemical sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • 3D reconstruction
  • Cryo-electron microscopy
  • Electron detection
  • Image processing
  • Macromolecular complexes
  • Maximum-likelihood optimization
  • Single-particle analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'How cryo-EM is revolutionizing structural biology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this