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Electron microscopy facility

The electron microscopy facility brings together a combination of instrumentation and expertise that supports the determination of three-dimensional protein structures from negative stain or cryo-electron microscopy.

Some of the ICR’s most famous recent discoveries have been in structural biology. This is partly because of our investment in instrumentation, ancillary equipment and expertise in the biochemical and biophysical techniques to understand protein structures in three dimensions.

The state-of-the-art facility houses two FEI electron microscopes – a Tecnai T12 and a Tecnai F20. Both microscopes are cryo-capable and equipped with digital cameras. The facility also includes the necessary ancillary equipment for making carbon support films, glow discharge of grids and frozen hydrated sample preparation and further analysis.

Among other technologies, we’ve led the field in harnessing cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) for cancer research, and co-led a consortium of academic partners to purchase a cutting-edge Titan Krios instrument based at the Francis Crick Institute.

The Tecnai T12 microscope is used mostly for sample screening in negative stain, training and trial studies in cryo-electron microscopy.  The Tecnai F20 microscope, equipped with a 4kx4k camera, is dedicated to the data collection by fully trained users

Cryo-EM is now widely used in the Division of Structural Biology to study a range of protein complexes that resist crystallisation, and at resolutions far higher than standard electron microscopy.

“In 2018 we used Cryo-EM to obtain the most vivid pictures yet of RNA polymerase III at work. The possibilities for this technology are only just being realised. It’s an incredibly exciting time.”

Dr Alessandro Vannini 
Team Leader, Structural Biology

For more information, please contact the facility manager, Dr Fabienne Beuron.


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