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J Struct Biol. 2004 Sep;147(3):247-58.

Use of negative stain and single-particle image processing to explore dynamic properties of flexible macromolecules.

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School of Biomedical Sciences and Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


Flexible macromolecules pose special difficulties for structure determination by crystallography or NMR. Progress can be made by electron microscopy, but electron cryo-microscopy of unstained, hydrated specimens is limited to larger macromolecules because of the inherently low signal-to-noise ratio. For three-dimensional structure determination, the single particles must be invariant in structure. Here, we describe how we have used negative staining and single-particle image processing techniques to explore the structure and flexibility of single molecules of two motor proteins: myosin and dynein. Critical for the success of negative staining is a hydrophilic, thin carbon film, because it produces a low noise background around each molecule, and stabilises the molecule against damage by the stain. The strategy adopted for single-particle image processing exploits the flexibility available within the SPIDER software suite. We illustrate the benefits of successive rounds of image alignment and classification, and the use of whole molecule averages and movies to analyse and display both structure and flexibility within the dynein motor.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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