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Purification and electron cryomicroscopy of coronavirus particles.

  • Author(s): Neuman, Benjamin W;
  • Adair, Brian D;
  • Yeager, Mark;
  • Buchmeier, Michael J
  • et al.

Intact, enveloped coronavirus particles vary widely in size and contour, and are thus refractory to study by traditional structural means such as X-ray crystallography. Electron microscopy (EM) overcomes some problems associated with particle variability and has been an important tool for investigating coronavirus ultrastructure. However, EM sample preparation requires that the specimen be dried onto a carbon support film before imaging, collapsing internal particle structure in the case of coronaviruses. Moreover, conventional EM achieves image contrast by immersing the specimen briefly in heavy-metal-containing stain, which reveals some features while obscuring others. Electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) instead employs a porous support film, to which the specimen is adsorbed and flash-frozen. Specimens preserved in vitreous ice over holes in the support film can then be imaged without additional staining. Cryo-EM, coupled with single-particle image analysis techniques, makes it possible to examine the size, structure and arrangement of coronavirus structural components in fully hydrated, native virions. Two virus purification procedures are described.

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