Electron microscopy snapshots of single particles from single cells.
ABSTRACT: Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) has become an indispensable tool for structural studies of biological macromolecules. Two additional predominant methods are available for studying the architectures of multiprotein complexes: 1) single-particle analysis of purified samples and 2) tomography of whole cells or cell sections. The former can produce high-resolution structures but is limited to highly purified samples, whereas the latter can capture proteins in their native state but has a low signal-to-noise ratio and yields lower-resolution structures. Here, we present a simple, adaptable method combining microfluidic single-cell extraction with single-particle analysis by EM to characterize protein complexes from individual Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. Using this approach, we uncover 3D structures of ribosomes directly from single embryo extracts. Moreover, we investigated structural dynamics during development by counting the number of ribosomes per polysome in early and late embryos. This approach has significant potential applications for counting protein complexes and studying protein architectures from single cells in developmental, evolutionary, and disease contexts.
Project description:Single particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) is an emerging powerful tool for structural studies of macromolecular assemblies (i.e., protein complexes and viruses). Although single particle cryo-EM requires less concentrated and smaller amounts of samples than X-ray crystallography, it remains challenging to study specimens that are low-abundance, low-yield, or short-lived. The recent development of affinity grid techniques can potentially further extend single particle cryo-EM to these challenging samples by combining sample purification and cryo-EM grid preparation into a single step. Here we report a new design of affinity cryo-EM approach, cryo-SPIEM, that applies a traditional pathogen diagnosis tool Solid Phase Immune Electron Microscopy (SPIEM) to the single particle cryo-EM method. This approach provides an alternative, largely simplified and easier to use affinity grid that directly works with most native macromolecular complexes with established antibodies, and enables cryo-EM studies of native samples directly from cell cultures. In the present work, we extensively tested the feasibility of cryo-SPIEM with multiple samples including those of high or low molecular weight, macromolecules with low or high symmetry, His-tagged or native particles, and high- or low-yield macromolecules. Results for all these samples (non-purified His-tagged bacteriophage T7, His-tagged Escherichiacoli ribosomes, native Sindbis virus, and purified but low-concentration native Tulane virus) demonstrated the capability of cryo-SPIEM approach in specifically trapping and concentrating target particles on TEM grids with minimal view constraints for cryo-EM imaging and determination of 3D structures.
Project description:Recent advances in single-particle cryoelecton microscopy (cryo-EM) are enabling generation of numerous near-atomic resolution structures for well-ordered protein complexes with sizes ? ?200 kDa. Whether cryo-EM methods are equally useful for high-resolution structural analysis of smaller, dynamic protein complexes such as those involved in cellular metabolism remains an important question. Here, we present 3.8 Å resolution cryo-EM structures of the cancer target isocitrate dehydrogenase (93 kDa) and identify the nature of conformational changes induced by binding of the allosteric small-molecule inhibitor ML309. We also report 2.8-Å- and 1.8-Å-resolution structures of lactate dehydrogenase (145 kDa) and glutamate dehydrogenase (334 kDa), respectively. With these results, two perceived barriers in single-particle cryo-EM are overcome: (1) crossing 2 Å resolution and (2) obtaining structures of proteins with sizes < 100 kDa, demonstrating that cryo-EM can be used to investigate a broad spectrum of drug-target interactions and dynamic conformational states.
Project description:Electron cryo-tomography (cryo-ET) is a technique that is used to produce 3D pictures (tomograms) of complex objects such as asymmetric viruses, cellular organelles or whole cells from a series of tilted electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) images. Averaging of macromolecular complexes found within tomograms is known as subtomogram averaging, and this technique allows structure determination of macromolecular complexes in situ. Subtomogram averaging is also gaining in popularity for the calculation of initial models for single-particle analysis. We describe herein a protocol for subtomogram averaging from cryo-ET data using the RELION software (http://www2.mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk/relion). RELION was originally developed for cryo-EM single-particle analysis, and the subtomogram averaging approach presented in this protocol has been implemented in the existing workflow for single-particle analysis so that users may conveniently tap into existing capabilities of the RELION software. We describe how to calculate 3D models for the contrast transfer function (CTF) that describe the transfer of information in the imaging process, and we illustrate the results of classification and subtomogram averaging refinement for cryo-ET data of purified hepatitis B capsid particles and Saccharomyces cerevisiae 80S ribosomes. Using the steps described in this protocol, along with the troubleshooting and optimization guidelines, high-resolution maps can be obtained in which secondary structure elements are resolved subtomogram.
Project description:In recent years, cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) has established itself as a key method in structural biology, permitting the structural characterization of large biomolecular complexes in various functional states. The data obtained through single-particle cryo-EM has recently seen a leap in resolution thanks to landmark advances in experimental and computational techniques, resulting in sub-nanometer resolution structures being obtained routinely. The remaining gap between these data and revealing the mechanisms of molecular function can be closed through hybrid modeling tools that incorporate known atomic structures into the cryo-EM data. One such tool, molecular dynamics flexible fitting (MDFF), uses molecular dynamics simulations to combine structures from X-ray crystallography with cryo-EM density maps to derive atomic models of large biomolecular complexes. The structures furnished by MDFF can be used subsequently in computational investigations aimed at revealing the dynamics of the complexes under study. In the present work, recent applications of MDFF are presented, including the interpretation of cryo-EM data of the ribosome at different stages of translation and the structure of a membrane-curvature-inducing photosynthetic complex.
Project description:Single particle analysis for structure determination in cryo-electron microscopy is traditionally applied to samples purified to near homogeneity as current reconstruction algorithms are not designed to handle heterogeneous mixtures of structures from many distinct macromolecular complexes. We extend on long established methods and demonstrate that relating two-dimensional projection images by their common lines in a graphical framework is sufficient for partitioning distinct protein and multiprotein complexes within the same data set. The feasibility of this approach is first demonstrated on a large set of synthetic reprojections from 35 unique macromolecular structures spanning a mass range of hundreds to thousands of kilodaltons. We then apply our algorithm on cryo-EM data collected from a mixture of five protein complexes and use existing methods to solve multiple three-dimensional structures ab initio. Incorporating methods to sort single particle cryo-EM data from extremely heterogeneous mixtures will alleviate the need for stringent purification and pave the way toward investigation of samples containing many unique structures.
Project description:Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) of single-particle specimens is used to determine the structure of proteins and macromolecular complexes without the need for crystals. Recent advances in detector technology and software algorithms now allow images of unprecedented quality to be recorded and structures to be determined at near-atomic resolution. However, compared with X-ray crystallography, cryo-EM is a young technique with distinct challenges. This primer explains the different steps and considerations involved in structure determination by single-particle cryo-EM to provide an overview for scientists wishing to understand more about this technique and the interpretation of data obtained with it, as well as a starting guide for new practitioners.
Project description:Traditionally, X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy represent major workhorses of structural biologists, with the lion share of protein structures reported in protein data bank (PDB) being generated by these powerful techniques. Despite their wide utilization in protein structure determination, these two techniques have logical limitations, with X-ray crystallography being unsuitable for the analysis of highly dynamic structures and with NMR spectroscopy being restricted to the analysis of relatively small proteins. In recent years, we have witnessed an explosive development of the techniques based on Cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) for structural characterization of biological molecules. In fact, single-particle Cryo-EM is a special niche as it is a technique of choice for the structural analysis of large, structurally heterogeneous, and dynamic complexes. Here, sub-nanometer atomic resolution can be achieved (i.e., resolution below 10 Å) via single-particle imaging of non-crystalline specimens, with accurate 3D reconstruction being generated based on the computational averaging of multiple 2D projection images of the same particle that was frozen rapidly in solution. We provide here a brief overview of single-particle Cryo-EM and show how Cryo-EM has revolutionized structural investigations of membrane proteins. We also show that the presence of intrinsically disordered or flexible regions in a target protein represents one of the major limitations of this promising technique.
Project description:During the work cycle of elongation, the ribosome, a molecular machine of vast complexity, exists in a large number of states distinguished by constellation of its subunits, its subunit domains and binding partners. Single-particle cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM), developed over the past 40 years, is uniquely suited to determine the structure of molecular machines in their native states. With the emergence, 10 years ago, of unsupervised clustering techniques in the analysis of single-particle data, it has been possible to determine multiple structures from a sample containing ribosomes equilibrating in different thermally accessible states. In addition, recent advances in detector technology have made it possible to reach near-atomic resolution for some of these states. With these capabilities, single-particle cryo-EM has been at the forefront of exploring ribosome dynamics during its functional cycle, along with single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer and molecular dynamics computations, offering insights into molecular architecture uniquely honed by evolution to capitalize on thermal energy in the ambient environment.This article is part of the themed issue 'Perspectives on the ribosome'.
Project description:The resolution of subtomogram averages calculated from cryo-electron tomograms (cryo-ET) of crowded cellular environments is often limited owing to signal loss in, and misalignment of, the subtomograms. By contrast, single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (SP-cryo-EM) routinely reaches near-atomic resolution of isolated complexes. We report a method called 'tomography-guided 3D reconstruction of subcellular structures' (TYGRESS) that is a hybrid of cryo-ET and SP-cryo-EM, and is able to achieve close-to-nanometer resolution of complexes inside crowded cellular environments. TYGRESS combines the advantages of SP-cryo-EM (images with good signal-to-noise ratio and contrast, as well as minimal radiation damage) and subtomogram averaging (three-dimensional alignment of macromolecules in a complex sample). Using TYGRESS, we determined the structure of the intact ciliary axoneme with up to resolution of 12?Å. These results reveal many structural details that were not visible by cryo-ET alone. TYGRESS is generally applicable to cellular complexes that are amenable to subtomogram averaging.
Project description:Single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and three-dimensional (3D) image processing have gained importance in the last few years to obtain atomic structures of drug targets. Obtaining atomic-resolution 3D structure better than ~2.5 Å is a standard approach in pharma companies to design and optimize therapeutic compounds against drug targets like proteins. Protein crystallography is the main technique in solving the structures of drug targets at atomic resolution. However, this technique requires protein crystals which in turn is a major bottleneck. It was not possible to obtain the structure of proteins better than 2.5 Å resolution by any other methods apart from protein crystallography until 2015. Recent advances in single-particle cryo-EM and 3D image processing have led to a resolution revolution in the field of structural biology that has led to high-resolution protein structures, thus breaking the cryo-EM resolution barriers to facilitate drug discovery. There are 24 structures solved by single-particle cryo-EM with resolution 2.5 Å or better in the EMDataBank (EMDB) till date. Among these, five cryo-EM 3D reconstructions of proteins in the EMDB have their associated coordinates deposited in Protein Data Bank (PDB), with bound inhibitor/ ligand. Thus, for the first time, single-particle cryo-EM was included in the structure-based drug design (SBDD) pipeline for solving protein structures independently or where crystallography has failed to crystallize the protein. Further, this technique can be complementary and supplementary to protein crystallography field in solving 3D structures. Thus, single-particle cryo-EM can become a standard approach in pharmaceutical industry in the design, validation, and optimization of therapeutic compounds targeting therapeutically important protein molecules during preclinical drug discovery research. The present chapter will describe briefly the history and the principles of single-particle cryo-EM and 3D image processing to obtain atomic-resolution structure of proteins and their complex with their drug targets/ligands.