Illuminating the secrets of crystals: microcrystal electron diffraction in structural biology

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X-ray crystallography (XRC) has visualised biological macromolecules in exquisite detail for over 50 years, relying on a combination of mathematical principles to offer insight into atomic structures. Crystals can diffract various electromagnetic waves aside from the conventional X-ray, offering an alternative approach to crystallographic structural analysis. Microcrystal electron diffraction (MicroED) illuminates crystals with electron waves instead of X-rays. Two specialised groups have demonstrated that MicroED can give high-resolution (often atomic) data, and now appears to be developing into a powerful alternative method to XRC or electron microscopy of macromolecules. How MicroED compares to XRC will be key to assessing it as a stand-alone crystallographic technique. This review presents a critical analysis of MicroED, with comments on theoretical and practical aspects and suggestions of further work and development.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberhzy013
Number of pages12
JournalBioscience Horizons
Early online date6 Feb 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Feb 2019


  • Crystallography
  • Structural biology
  • MicroED
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Electron diffraction


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