Su, M. goCTF: Geometrically optimized CTF determination for single-particle cryo-EM. Journal of structural biology, 2019, 205: 22-29
Preferred particle orientation represents a recurring problem in single-particle cryogenic electron microcopy (cryo-EM). A specimen-independent approach through tilting has been attempted to increase particle orientation coverage, thus minimizing anisotropic three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction. However, focus gradient is a critical issue hindering tilt applications from being a general practice in single-particle cryo-EM. The present study describes a newly developed geometrically optimized approach, goCTF, to reliably determine the global focus gradient. A novel strategy of determining contrast transfer function (CTF) parameters from a sector of the signal preserved power spectrum is applied to increase reliability. Subsequently, per-particle based local focus refinement is conducted in an iterative manner to further improve the defocus accuracy. Novel diagnosis methods using a standard deviation defocus plot and goodness of fit heatmap have also been proposed to evaluate CTF fitting quality prior to 3D refinement. In a benchmark study, goCTF processed a published single-particle cryo-EM dataset for influenza hemagglutinin trimer collected at a 40-degree specimen tilt. The resulting 3D reconstruction map was improved from 4.1 Å to 3.7 Å resolution. The goCTF program is built on the open-source code of CTFFIND4, which adopts a consistent user interface for ease of use.