Yokoyama, Yuichi / Terada, Tohru / Shimizu, Kentaro / Nishikawa, Kouki / Kozai, Daisuke / Shimada, Atsuhiro / Mizoguchi, Akira / Fujiyoshi, Yoshinori / Tani, Kazutoshi. Development of a deep learning-based method to identify "good" regions of a cryo-electron microscopy grid. 2020. Biophysical reviews, Vol. 12, p. 349-354
Recent advances in cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) have enabled protein structure determination at atomic resolutions. Cryo-EM specimens are prepared by rapidly freezing a protein solution on a metal grid coated with a holey carbon film; this results in the formation of an ice film on each hole. The thickness of the ice film is a critical factor for high-resolution structure determination; ice that is too thick degrades the contrast of the protein image while ice that is too thin excludes the protein from the hole or denatures the protein. Therefore, trained researchers need to manually select "good" regions with appropriate ice thicknesses for imaging. To reduce the time spent on such tasks, we developed a deep learning program consisting of a "detector" and a "classifier" to identify good regions from low-magnification EM images. In our method, the holes in a low-magnification EM image are detected via a detector, and the ice image on each hole is classified as either good or bad via a classifier. The detector detected more than 95% of the holes regardless of the type of samples. The classifier was trained for different types of samples because the appropriate ice thickness varies between sample types. The accuracies of the classifiers were 93.8% for a soluble protein sample (β-galactosidase) and 95.3% for a membrane protein sample (bovine heart cytochrome c oxidase). In addition, we found that a training data set containing 2100 hole images from 300 low-magnification EM images was sufficient to obtain good accuracy, such as higher than 90%. We expect that the throughput of the cryo-EM data collection step will be greatly improved by using our method.