Naydenova, K.; Jia, P.; Russo, C. J. Cryo-EM with sub-1 Å specimen movement. Science, 2020, 370, 223-226
Most information loss in cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) stems from particle movement during imaging, which remains poorly understood. We show that this movement is caused by buckling and subsequent deformation of the suspended ice, with a threshold that depends directly on the shape of the frozen water layer set by the support foil. We describe a specimen support design that eliminates buckling and reduces electron beam-induced particle movement to less than 1 angstrom. The design allows precise foil tracking during imaging with high-speed detectors, thereby lessening demands on cryostage precision and stability. It includes a maximal density of holes, which increases throughput in automated cryo-EM without degrading data quality. Movement-free imaging allows extrapolation to a three-dimensional map of the specimen at zero electron exposure, before the onset of radiation damage.