A: In a highly magnified view of a cell the particle would look like an uninteresting grey blob. Vaults were only identified after they were purified by accident. They were able to be seen in an electron microscope using a negative stain. With this method, the purified vault particle is covered with a stain that surrounds it and settles in surface depressions to reveal its unusual outline and contours.
A: The precise function of vaults is still unknown. Their size, shape and location at nuclear pores suggests that they may be a plug of the pore complex. Their hollow interior and role in cancer indicates that they may be carriers. The fact that one of the high molecular weight vault proteins (p240 or TEP1) is a component of telomerase may indicate a role in assembly, transport or regulation of ribonucleoprotein particles.