DiIorio, Megan C. / Kulczyk, Arkadiusz W. A Robust Single-Particle Cryo-Electron Microscopy (cryo-EM) Processing Workflow with cryoSPARC, RELION, and Scipion. 2022. Journal of visualized experiments: JoVE, No. 179.
Recent advances in both instrumentation and image processing software have made single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) the preferred method for structural biologists to determine high-resolution structures of a wide variety of macromolecules. Multiple software suites are available to new and expert users for image processing and structure calculation, which streamline the same basic workflow: movies acquired by the microscope detectors undergo correction for beam-induced motion and contrast transfer function (CTF) estimation. Next, particle images are selected and extracted from averaged movie frames for iterative 2D and 3D classification, followed by 3D reconstruction, refinement, and validation. Because various software packages employ different algorithms and require varying levels of expertise to operate, the 3D maps they generate often differ in quality and resolution. Thus, users regularly transfer data between a variety of programs for optimal results. This paper provides a guide for users to navigate a workflow across the popular software packages: cryoSPARC v3, RELION-3, and Scipion 3 to obtain a near-atomic resolution structure of the adenoassociated virus (AAV). We first detail an image processing pipeline with cryoSPARC v3, as its efficient algorithms and easy-to-use GUI allow users to quickly arrive at a 3D map. In the next step, we use PyEM and in-house scripts to convert and transfer particle coordinates from the best quality 3D reconstruction obtained in cryoSPARC v3 to RELION-3 and Scipion 3 and recalculate 3D maps. Finally, we outline steps for further refinement and validation of the resultant structures by integrating algorithms from RELION-3 and Scipion 3. In this article, we describe how to effectively utilize three processing platforms to create a single and robust workflow applicable to a variety of data sets for high-resolution structure determination.