Three-dimensional architecture of murine rod cilium revealed by Cryo-EM

Theodore G. Wensel, Jared C. Gilliam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The connecting cilium of the rod photoreceptor is a tubular structure that bridges two adjacent cellular compartments, the inner segment, the major site of biosynthesis and energy metabolism, and the outer segment, a highly specialized ciliary structure responsible for phototransduction. The connecting cilium allows for active processes of protein sorting and transport to occur between them. Mutations affecting the cargo, their transporters, and the structural components of the primary cilium and basal body lead to aberrant trafficking and photoreceptor cell death. Understanding the overall design of the cilium, its architectural organization, and the function of varied protein complexes within the structural hierarchy of the cilium requires techniques for visualizing their native three-dimensional structures at high magnification. Here we describe methods for isolating retinas from mice, purifying fragments of rod cells that include much of the inner segment and the rod photoreceptor cilia, vitrifying the cell fragments, and determining their structures by cryo-electron tomography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-292
Number of pages26
JournalMethods in Molecular Biology
StatePublished - 2015


  • Cryo-electron tomography
  • Intraflagellar transport
  • Primary cilia
  • Rod outer segment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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