Visualizing the molecular sociology at the HeLa cell nuclear periphery

Science  26 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6276, pp. 969-972
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad8857

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Close-up view of the nuclear periphery

Cell biologists would like to be able to visualize complexes inside cells at molecular resolution. Several limitations, however, have prevented the field from realizing this goal. The thickness of most cells precludes cryo-electron tomography, a technique which itself does not provide sufficient contrast. Mahamid et al. successfully combined recent advances on both fronts to analyze structures in situ at the periphery of the nucleus. Their images reveal features that inform our understanding of the native organization of nuclear pores and of the nuclear lamina.

Science, this issue p. 969


The molecular organization of eukaryotic nuclear volumes remains largely unexplored. Here we combined recent developments in cryo–electron tomography (cryo-ET) to produce three-dimensional snapshots of the HeLa cell nuclear periphery. Subtomogram averaging and classification of ribosomes revealed the native structure and organization of the cytoplasmic translation machinery. Analysis of a large dynamic structure—the nuclear pore complex—revealed variations detectable at the level of individual complexes. Cryo-ET was used to visualize previously elusive structures, such as nucleosome chains and the filaments of the nuclear lamina, in situ. Elucidation of the lamina structure provides insight into its contribution to metazoan nuclear stiffness.

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