Three-dimensional insights into human enveloped viruses in vitro and in situ

Naveen Vankadari, Doulin C. Shepherd, Stephen D. Carter, Debnath Ghosal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Viruses can be enveloped or non-enveloped, and require a host cell to replicate and package their genomes into new virions to infect new cells. To accomplish this task, viruses hijack the host-cell machinery to facilitate their replication by subverting and manipulating normal host cell function. Enveloped viruses can have severe consequences for human health, causing various diseases such as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), seasonal influenza, COVID-19, and Ebola virus disease. The complex arrangement and pleomorphic architecture of many enveloped viruses pose a challenge for the more widely used structural biology techniques, such as X-ray crystallography. Cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET), however, is a particularly well-suited tool for overcoming the limitations associated with visualizing the irregular shapes and morphology enveloped viruses possess at macromolecular resolution. The purpose of this review is to explore the latest structural insights that cryo-ET has revealed about enveloped viruses, with particular attention given to their architectures, mechanisms of entry, replication, assembly, maturation and egress during infection. Cryo-ET is unique in its ability to visualize cellular landscapes at 3-5 nanometer resolution. Therefore, it is the most suited technique to study asymmetric elements and structural rearrangements of enveloped viruses during infection in their native cellular context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-105
Number of pages11
JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • SARS
  • tomography
  • virus
  • microscopy
  • structure

Cite this