Spiegel, M.; Duraisamy, A. K. & Schröder, G. F. Improving the Visualisation of Cryo-EM Density Reconstructions. J Struct Biol, 2015, 191: 207-213
Cryo-electron microscopy yields 3D density maps of macromolecules from single-particle images, tomograms, or 2D crystals. An optimal visualisation of the density map is important for its proper interpretation. We have developed a method to improve the visualisation of density maps by using general statistical information about proteins for the sharpening process. In particular, the packing density of atoms is highly similar between different proteins, which allows for building a pseudo-atomic model to approximate the true mass distribution. From this model the radial structure factor and density value histogram are estimated and applied as constraints to the 3D reconstruction in reciprocal- and real-space, respectively. Interestingly, similar improvements are obtained when using the correct radial structure factor and density value histogram from a crystal structure. Thus, the estimated pseudo-atomic model yields a sufficiently accurate mass distribution to optimally sharpen a density map.