The development of electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) has evolved immensely in the last several decades and is now well-established in the analysis of protein structure both in isolation and in their cellular context. This review focuses on the history and application of cryo-EM to the analysis of membrane architecture. Parallels between the levels of organization of protein structure are useful in organizing the discussion of the unique parameters that influence membrane structure and function. Importantly, the timescales of lipid motion in bilayers with respect to the timescales of sample vitrification is discussed and reveals what types of membrane structure can be reliably extracted in cryo-EM images of vitrified samples. Appreciating these limitations, a review of the application of cryo-EM to examine the lateral organization of ordered and disordered domains in reconstituted and biologically derived membranes is provided. Finally, a brief outlook for further development and application of cryo-EM to the analysis of membrane architecture is provided.

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