Structure Determination of Microtubules and Pili: Past, Present, and Future Directions

James A. Garnett*, Joseph Atherton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Historically proteins that form highly polymeric and filamentous assemblies have been notoriously difficult to study using high resolution structural techniques. This has been due to several factors that include structural heterogeneity, their large molecular mass, and available yields. However, over the past decade we are now seeing a major shift towards atomic resolution insight and the study of more complex heterogenous samples and in situ/ex vivo examination of multi-subunit complexes. Although supported by developments in solid state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (ssNMR) and computational approaches, this has primarily been due to advances in cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM). The study of eukaryotic microtubules and bacterial pili are good examples, and in this review, we will give an overview of the technical innovations that have enabled this transition and highlight the advancements that have been made for these two systems. Looking to the future we will also describe systems that remain difficult to study and where further technical breakthroughs are required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number830304
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Biosciences
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2022


  • cryo-EM
  • fibre
  • filament
  • microtubule
  • pilus
  • ssNMR


Dive into the research topics of 'Structure Determination of Microtubules and Pili: Past, Present, and Future Directions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this