Bouvette, Jonathan / Huang, Qinwen / Riccio, Amanda A. / Copeland, William C. / Bartesaghi, Alberto / Borgnia, Mario J. Automated systematic evaluation of cryo-EM specimens with SmartScope. 2022. Elife, Vol. 11, p. e80047
Finding the conditions to stabilize a macromolecular target for imaging remains the most critical barrier to determining its structure by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). While automation has significantly increased the speed of data collection, specimens are still screened manually, a laborious and subjective task that often determines the success of a project. Here, we present SmartScope, the first framework to streamline, standardize, and automate specimen evaluation in cryo-EM. SmartScope employs deep-learning- based object detection to identify and classify features suitable for imaging, allowing it to perform thorough specimen screening in a fully automated manner. A web interface provides remote control over the automated operation of the microscope in real time and access to images and annotation tools. Manual annotations can be used to re-train the feature recognition models, leading to improvements in performance. Our automated tool for systematic evaluation of specimens streamlines structure determination and lowers the barrier of adoption for cryo-EM.