With the development of cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) in the last 20 years, our understanding of bacterial and archaeal cell structure has exploded, but traditional textbooks haven’t kept up with all the new information. To solve this problem, and share what we’ve seen with the world, we created this book. It follows the tradition of the cell structure atlases of the 1960s and 1970s, which showed micrographs of different cells and tissues alongside extended figure legends to help everyone understand what they were looking at. Fifty years later, we have a new set of images–this time 3D cryo-tomograms–and new technologies to show them: instead of static 2D figures in an expensive book, each of our free digital pages features a movie of a 3D tomogram of a cell, complete with annotations and animations.
The main content can be digested in a few hours and is suitable for an undergraduate cell biology or medical microbiology course, maybe assigned as additional reading to accompany the first few lectures. More advanced readers can go into more depth on a topic through optional “Learn More” buttons. And to keep it free for everyone, we published it as an open-access textbook through the Caltech Library.