Visualizing macromolecular complexes provides important structural information about their
function in biology. The electron density maps of these complexes that can be obtained with cryo-EM can provide structural details with near atomic resolution. At the Netherlands Centre for Electron Nanoscopy (NeCEN) two of the most advanced 300 kV cryo transmission electron microscopes (TEM) are operational as an excellent high-end facility (www.necen.nl).
The microscopes are continuously upgraded and equipped with state of the art additional technologies (e.g. direct electron detectors, phase plate, spherical aberration corrector) that are all important to attain the highest possible resolution. The infrastructure is especially valuable for structural (cell) biology, as it provides fundamental structural information about biological processes that is critical for the development of novel strategies in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. It also plays a crucial role in the development of sustainable products and processes based on biological systems.
Cryo-EM is particularly exciting as it does not require crystals and allows analysis of different conformational states simultaneously. Previously intractable and increasingly large complexes can now be studied in high-resolution detail, with important perspectives for drug development and cellular insights. The combination of high resolution analysis and electron tomography will place these structural details within the cellular context and open up important, groundbreaking opportunities for e.g. neurobiology, infection and immunity, and oncology.