In the past, macromolecular structures have been characterized by methods requiring their isolation and purification. When taken out of their functional context, information about their interactions within the cellular environment is lost. However, it is the interaction between the many molecular species inhabiting cells which underlies cellular functions. Many of them exist only fleetingly or, when integrated in supramolecular complexes, these may be rooted so deeply in cells that they cannot be isolated without affecting their structural integrity.
Professor Baumeister discussed a method, cryo-electrontomography, that has the unique potential to study the ‘molecular sociology’ of cells, combining the best structural preservation with 3D high resolution imaging.
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