Frangakis, Achilleas S. It's noisy out there! A review of denoising techniques in cryo-electron tomography. 2021. J. structural biology, 213: 107804
Cryo-electron tomography is the only technique that can provide sub-nanometer resolved images of cell regions or even whole cells, without the need of labeling or staining methods. Technological advances over the past decade in electron microscope stability, cameras, stage precision and software have resulted in faster acquisition speeds and considerably improved resolution. In pursuit of even better image resolution, researchers seek to reduce noise - a crucial factor affecting the reliability of the tomogram interpretation and ultimately limiting the achieved resolution. Sub-tomogram averaging is the method of choice for reducing noise in repetitive objects. However, when averaging is not applicable, a trade-off between reducing noise and conserving genuine image details must be achieved. Thus, denoising is an important process that improves the interpretability of the tomogram not only directly but also by facilitating other downstream tasks, such as segmentation and 3D visualization. Here, I review contemporary denoising techniques for cryo-electron tomography by taking into account noise-specific properties of both reconstruction and detector noise. The outcomes of different techniques are compared, in order to help researchers select the most appropriate for each dataset and to achieve better and more reliable interpretation of the tomograms.