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Cryo-EM methods

The cryo-EM method has become very powerful in the past several years and for many structural biologists it is becoming the method of choice. The full potential of the technique, however, is still to be realized as the scientific community is in great need of hardware-based and software improvements. Although the first 3D images of biological specimens at true atomic resolution have been obtained recently, the routine resolution of cryo-EM still lags behind in detail and quality in comparison with common material science electron microscopy as it is imaged at the Ernst-Ruska Centre (ER-C) 1 and 2. Therefore, in collaboration with the ER-C-1 and ER-C-2 we will apply new imaging hardware to biological samples. Our technique development also includes novel sample preparation, data acquisition and image processing methods that we benchmark using biological test specimens. We apply these innovative cryo-EM methods to the structures of challenging biological systems with a particular focus on membrane assemblies.

For more details on cryo-EM projects and related publications visit our personal lab site.

Carsten Sachse; Simon Fromm; Stefan Huber, ©Carsten Sachse, Forschungszentrum Juelich 2021Cryo-EM structures of tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) (left), p62/SQSTM1-PB1 (center) and Vps24 (right). We use TMV as a test specimen for cryo-EM method development. We study the structural biology of selective autophagy receptor p62/SQSTM1 and ESCRT-family proteins like Vps24 involved in membrane-associated processes of autophagy and endocytosis.

Membrane biology

Biological membranes provide external barriers as well as internal structure to the cell. The formation of membranes and separated compartments constitute one of the critical steps for the cellular waste disposal machineries of autophagy and endocytosis. Autophagy (from the Greek, meaning ‘to eat oneself’) is the cell’s housekeeping mechanism to engulf and degrade long-lived proteins, macromolecular aggregates, damaged organelles and even microbes in double-membrane vesicles called autophagosomes. In endocytosis, large macromolecules are being internalized from the cell’s exterior through the plasma membrane. On the structural level, we study how these protein complexes interact with membranes and shape them to give rise to the observed intricate membrane architectures of the cell. In our institute, we investigate the molecular structures involved in autophagy and endocytosis as they provide fundamental insights for our understanding of aberrant cellular membrane processes like cancer, ageing or infection.

For more details on membrane biology projects and related publications visit our personal lab site.

Additional Information

Head of ER-C-3

Structural Biology (ER-C-3)


Prof. Dr. Carsten Sachse

Personal lab

Phone: +49 2461 61-2030
Fax: +49 2461 61-1448

Team assistant: Melanie Hagen

Phone: +49 2461 61-2031
Fax: +49 2461 61-1448