Seeing tobacco mosaic virus through direct electron detectors.
ABSTRACT: With the introduction of direct electron detectors (DED) to the field of electron cryo-microscopy, a wave of atomic-resolution structures has become available. As the new detectors still require comparative characterization, we have used tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) as a test specimen to study the quality of 3D image reconstructions from data recorded on the two direct electron detector cameras, K2 Summit and Falcon II. Using DED movie frames, we explored related image-processing aspects and compared the performance of micrograph-based and segment-based motion correction approaches. In addition, we investigated the effect of dose deposition on the atomic-resolution structure of TMV and show that radiation damage affects negative carboxyl chains first in a side-chain specific manner. Finally, using 450,000 asymmetric units and limiting the effects of radiation damage, we determined a high-resolution cryo-EM map at 3.35Å resolution. Here, we provide a comparative case study of highly ordered TMV recorded on different direct electron detectors to establish recording and processing conditions that enable structure determination up to 3.2Å in resolution using cryo-EM.
Project description:Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) had played a central role in the study of ribosome structure and the process of translation in bacteria since the development of this technique in the mid 1980s. Until recently cryo-EM structures were limited to ?10 Å in the best cases. However, the recent advent of direct electron detectors has greatly improved the resolution of cryo-EM structures to the point where atomic resolution is now achievable. This improved resolution will allow cryo-EM to make groundbreaking contributions in essential aspects of ribosome biology, including the assembly process. In this review, we summarize important insights that cryo-EM, in combination with chemical and genetic approaches, has already brought to our current understanding of the ribosomal assembly process in bacteria using previous detector technology. More importantly, we discuss how the higher resolution structures now attainable with direct electron detectors can be leveraged to propose precise testable models regarding this process. These structures will provide an effective platform to develop new antibiotics that target this fundamental cellular process.
Project description:Direct electron detectors (DEDs) have revolutionized cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) by facilitating the correction of beam-induced motion and radiation damage, and also by providing high-resolution image capture. A new-generation DED, the DE64, has been developed by Direct Electron that has good performance in both integrating and counting modes. The camera has been characterized in both modes in terms of image quality, throughput and resolution of cryo-EM reconstructions. The modulation transfer function, noise power spectrum and detective quantum efficiency (DQE) were determined for both modes, as well as the number of images per unit time. Although the DQE for counting mode was superior to that for integrating mode, the data-collection throughput for this mode was more than ten times slower. Since throughput and resolution are related in single-particle cryo-EM, data for apoferritin were collected and reconstructed using integrating mode, integrating mode in conjunction with a Volta phase plate (VPP) and counting mode. Only the counting-mode data resulted in a better than 3?Å resolution reconstruction with similar numbers of particles, and this increased performance could not be compensated for by the increased throughput of integrating mode or by the increased low-frequency contrast of integrating mode with the VPP. These data show that the superior image quality provided by counting mode is more important for high-resolution cryo-EM reconstructions than the superior throughput of integrating mode.
Project description:With the advent of direct electron detectors, the perspectives of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) have changed in a profound way. These cameras are superior to previous detectors in coping with the intrinsically low contrast and beam-induced motion of radiation-sensitive organic materials embedded in amorphous ice, and hence they have enabled the structure determination of many macromolecular assemblies to atomic or near-atomic resolution. Nevertheless, there are still limitations and one of them is the size of the target structure. Here, we report the use of a Volta phase plate in determining the structure of human haemoglobin (64 kDa) at 3.2 Å. Our results demonstrate that this method can be applied to complexes that are significantly smaller than those previously studied by conventional defocus-based approaches. Cryo-EM is now close to becoming a fast and cost-effective alternative to crystallography for high-resolution protein structure determination.
Project description:Recent advances in cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) have made it possible to solve structures of biological macromolecules at near atomic resolution. Development of more stable microscopes, improved direct electron detectors and faster software for image processing has enabled structural solution of not only large macromolecular (megadalton range) complexes but also small (~60 kDa) proteins. As a result of the widespread use of the technique, we have also witnessed new developments of techniques for cryo-EM grid preparation of membrane protein samples. This includes new types of solubilization strategies that better stabilize these protein complexes and the development of new grid supports with proven efficacy in reducing the motion of the molecules during electron beam exposure. Here, we discuss the practicalities and recent challenges of membrane protein sample preparation and vitrification, as well as grid support and foil treatment in the context of the structure determination of protein complexes by single particle cryo-EM.
Project description:The advent of direct electron detectors has enabled the routine use of single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (EM) approaches to determine structures of a variety of protein complexes at near-atomic resolution. Here, we report the development of methods to account for local variations in defocus and beam-induced drift, and the implementation of a data-driven dose compensation scheme that significantly improves the extraction of high-resolution information recorded during exposure of the specimen to the electron beam. These advances enable determination of a cryo-EM density map for ?-galactosidase bound to the inhibitor phenylethyl ?-D-thiogalactopyranoside where the ordered regions are resolved at a level of detail seen in X-ray maps at ? 1.5 Å resolution. Using this density map in conjunction with constrained molecular dynamics simulations provides a measure of the local flexibility of the non-covalently bound inhibitor and offers further opportunities for structure-guided inhibitor design.
Project description:Cryo-EM of large, macromolecular assemblies has seen a significant increase in the numbers of high-resolution structures since the arrival of direct electron detectors. However, sub-nanometre resolution cryo-EM structures are rare compared with crystal structure depositions, particularly for relatively small particles (<400 kDa). Here we demonstrate the benefits of Volta phase plates for single-particle analysis by time-efficient cryo-EM structure determination of 257 kDa human peroxiredoxin-3 dodecamers at 4.4 Å resolution. The Volta phase plate improves the applicability of cryo-EM for small molecules and accelerates structure determination.
Project description:Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) is a powerful tool for macromolecular to near-atomic resolution structure determination in the biological sciences. The specimen is maintained in a near-native environment within a thin film of vitreous ice and imaged in a transmission electron microscope. The images can then be processed by a number of computational methods to produce three-dimensional information. Recent advances in sample preparation, imaging, and data processing have led to tremendous growth in the field of cryo-EM by providing higher resolution structures and the ability to investigate macromolecules within the context of the cell. Here, we review developments in sample preparation methods and substrates, detectors, phase plates, and cryo-correlative light and electron microscopy that have contributed to this expansion. We also have included specific biological applications.
Project description:The advent of a new generation of electron microscopes and direct electron detectors has realized the potential of single particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) as a technique to generate high-resolution structures. Calculating these structures requires high performance computing clusters, a resource that may be limiting to many likely cryo-EM users. To address this limitation and facilitate the spread of cryo-EM, we developed a publicly available 'off-the-shelf' computing environment on Amazon's elastic cloud computing infrastructure. This environment provides users with single particle cryo-EM software packages and the ability to create computing clusters with 16-480+ CPUs. We tested our computing environment using a publicly available 80S yeast ribosome dataset and estimate that laboratories could determine high-resolution cryo-EM structures for $50 to $1500 per structure within a timeframe comparable to local clusters. Our analysis shows that Amazon's cloud computing environment may offer a viable computing environment for cryo-EM.
Project description:Microcrystal electron diffraction (MicroED) combines crystallography and electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) into a method that is applicable to high-resolution structure determination. In MicroED, nanosized crystals, which are often intractable using other techniques, are probed by high-energy electrons in a transmission electron microscope. Diffraction data are recorded by a camera in movie mode: the nanocrystal is continuously rotated in the beam, thus creating a sequence of frames that constitute a movie with respect to the rotation angle. Until now, diffraction-optimized cameras have mostly been used for MicroED. Here, the use of a direct electron detector that was designed for imaging is reported. It is demonstrated that data can be collected more rapidly using the Falcon III for MicroED and with markedly lower exposure than has previously been reported. The Falcon III was operated at 40 frames per second and complete data sets reaching atomic resolution were recorded in minutes. The resulting density maps to 2.1?Å resolution of the serine protease proteinase K showed no visible signs of radiation damage. It is thus demonstrated that dedicated diffraction-optimized detectors are not required for MicroED, as shown by the fact that the very same cameras that are used for imaging applications in electron microscopy, such as single-particle cryo-EM, can also be used effectively for diffraction measurements.
Project description:Despite the great strides made in the field of single-particle cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) in microscope design, direct electron detectors and new processing suites, the area of sample preparation is still far from ideal. Traditionally, sample preparation involves blotting, which has been used to achieve high resolution, particularly for well behaved samples such as apoferritin. However, this approach is flawed since the blotting process can have adverse effects on some proteins and protein complexes, and the long blot time increases exposure to the damaging air-water interface. To overcome these problems, new blotless approaches have been designed for the direct deposition of the sample on the grid. Here, different methods of producing droplets for sample deposition are compared. Using gas dynamic virtual nozzles, small and high-velocity droplets were deposited on cryo-EM grids, which spread sufficiently for high-resolution cryo-EM imaging. For those wishing to pursue a similar approach, an overview is given of the current use of spray technology for cryo-EM grid preparation and areas for enhancement are pointed out. It is further shown how the broad aspects of sprayer design and operation conditions can be utilized to improve grid quality reproducibly.