Cryo-EM structure of haemoglobin at 3.2 A determined with the Volta phase plate.
ABSTRACT: 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: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:Previously, we reported an in-focus data acquisition method for cryo-EM single-particle analysis with the Volta phase plate (Danev and Baumeister, 2016). Here, we extend the technique to include a small amount of defocus which enables contrast transfer function measurement and correction. This hybrid approach simplifies the experiment and increases the data acquisition speed. It also removes the resolution limit inherent to the in-focus method thus allowing 3D reconstructions with resolutions better than 3 Å.
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-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) of small membrane proteins, such as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), remains challenging. Pushing the performance boundaries of the technique requires quantitative knowledge about the contribution of multiple factors. Here, we present an in-depth analysis and optimization of the main experimental parameters in cryo-EM. We combined actual structural studies with methods development to quantify the effects of the Volta phase plate, zero-loss energy filtering, objective lens aperture, defocus magnitude, total exposure, and grid type. By using this information to carefully maximize the experimental performance, it is now possible to routinely determine GPCR structures at resolutions better than 2.5 Å. The improved fidelity of such maps enables the building of better atomic models and will be crucial for the future expansion of cryo-EM into the structure-based drug design domain. The optimization guidelines given here are not limited to GPCRs and can be applied directly to other small proteins.
Project description: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:Determining high-resolution structures of biological macromolecules amassing less than 100 kilodaltons (kDa) has been a longstanding goal of the cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) community. While the Volta phase plate has enabled visualization of specimens in this size range, this instrumentation is not yet fully automated and can present technical challenges. Here, we show that conventional defocus-based cryo-EM methodologies can be used to determine high-resolution structures of specimens amassing less than 100?kDa using a transmission electron microscope operating at 200?keV coupled with a direct electron detector. Our ~2.7?Å structure of alcohol dehydrogenase (82?kDa) proves that bound ligands can be resolved with high fidelity to enable investigation of drug-target interactions. Our ~2.8?Å and ~3.2?Å structures of methemoglobin demonstrate that distinct conformational states can be identified within a dataset for proteins as small as 64?kDa. Furthermore, we provide the sub-nanometer cryo-EM structure of a sub-50 kDa protein.
Project description:Volta Phase Plate (VPP) has become an invaluable tool for cryo-EM structural determination of small protein complexes by increasing image contrast. Currently, the standard protocol of VPP usage periodically changes the VPP position to a fresh spot during data collection. Such a protocol was to target the phase shifts to a relatively narrow range (around 90°) based on the observations of increased phase shifts and image blur associated with more images taken with a single VPP position. Here, we report a 2.87?Å resolution structure of apoferritin reconstructed from a dataset collected using only a single position of VPP. The reconstruction resolution and map density features are nearly identical to the reconstruction from the control dataset collected with periodic change of VPP positions. Further experiments have verified that similar results, including a 2.5?Å resolution structure, could be obtained with a full range of phase shifts, different spots of variable phase shift increasing rates, and at different ages of the VPP post-installation. Furthermore, we have found that the phase shifts at low resolutions, probably related to the finite size of the Volta spots, could not be correctly modeled by current CTF model using a constant phase shift at all frequencies. In dataset III, severe beam tilt issue was identified but could be computationally corrected with iterative refinements. The observations in this study may provide new insights into further improvement of both the efficiency and robustness of VPP, and to help turn VPP into a plug-and-play device for high-resolution cryo-EM.
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: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:We report the solution structure of Escherichia coli ?-galactosidase (?465 kDa), solved at ?3.2-Å resolution by using single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). Densities for most side chains, including those of residues in the active site, and a catalytic Mg(2+) ion can be discerned in the map obtained by cryo-EM. The atomic model derived from our cryo-EM analysis closely matches the 1.7-Å crystal structure with a global rmsd of ?0.66 Å. There are significant local differences throughout the protein, with clear evidence for conformational changes resulting from contact zones in the crystal lattice. Inspection of the map reveals that although densities for residues with positively charged and neutral side chains are well resolved, systematically weaker densities are observed for residues with negatively charged side chains. We show that the weaker densities for negatively charged residues arise from their greater sensitivity to radiation damage from electron irradiation as determined by comparison of density maps obtained by using electron doses ranging from 10 to 30 e(-)/Å(2). In summary, we establish that it is feasible to use cryo-EM to determine near-atomic resolution structures of protein complexes (<500 kDa) with low symmetry, and that the residue-specific radiation damage that occurs with increasing electron dose can be monitored by using dose fractionation tools available with direct electron detector technology.