Sindelar, C. V. & Grigorieff, N. Optimal noise reduction in 3D reconstructions of single particles using a volume-normalized filter. J. Structural Biology, 2012, 180, 26-38
The high noise level found in single-particle electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) image data presents a special challenge for three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction of the imaged molecules. The spectral signal-to-noise ratio (SSNR) and related Fourier shell correlation (FSC) functions are commonly used to assess and mitigate the noise-generated error in the reconstruction. Calculation of the SSNR and FSC usually includes the noise in the solvent region surrounding the particle and therefore does not accurately reflect the signal in the particle density itself. Here we show that the SSNR in a reconstructed 3D particle map is linearly proportional to the fractional volume occupied by the particle. Using this relationship, we devise a novel filter (the "single-particle Wiener filter") to minimize the error in a reconstructed particle map, if the particle volume is known. Moreover, we show how to approximate this filter even when the volume of the particle is not known, by optimizing the signal within a representative interior region of the particle. We show that the new filter improves on previously proposed error-reduction schemes, including the conventional Wiener filter as well as figure-of-merit weighting, and quantify the relationship between all of these methods by theoretical analysis as well as numeric evaluation of both simulated and experimentally collected data. The single-particle Wiener filter is applicable across a broad range of existing 3D reconstruction techniques, but is particularly well suited to the Fourier inversion method, leading to an efficient and accurate implementation.