Electron tomography in nanoparticle imaging and analysis

Jeffrey S. Lengyel, Jacqueline L S Milne, Sriram Subramaniam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


A wide range of medically important nanosized biological assemblies are not amenable to study by standard structural techniques, such as x-ray crystallography or nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, either owing to their large size or the intrinsic heterogeneity of the specimen. The emerging technique of cryo-electron tomography is being applied actively to study these nanoparticles and has the potential of providing high-resolution structural information on these heterogeneous assemblies. Although the majority of structural methods involve the averaging of large numbers of structurally homogeneous molecules, tomography enables the visualization and quantitation of variation in a mixed population. Here, we present a review of the principles of cryo-electron tomography as applied to the 3D analysis of nanoparticles and illustrate applications where it can be used for visualizing the architecture of enveloped viruses and for the analysis of size and compositional variation of Doxil®: a commonly used, US FDA-approved nanomedicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-131
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D electron microscopy
  • AIDS virus
  • Cryo-electron tomography
  • Doxil®
  • Liposomes
  • Nanoparticle characterization
  • Nanoparticle standardization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Development


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