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J Mol Biol. 2006 Feb 3;355(5):1048-65. Epub 2005 Nov 28.

Single particle reconstructions of the transferrin-transferrin receptor complex obtained with different specimen preparation techniques.

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Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, 240 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The outcome of three-dimensional (3D) reconstructions in single particle electron microscopy (EM) depends on a number of parameters. We have used the well-characterized structure of the transferrin (Tf)-transferrin receptor (TfR) complex to study how specimen preparation techniques influence the outcome of single particle EM reconstructions. The Tf-TfR complex is small (290kDa) and of low symmetry (2-fold). Angular reconstitution from images of vitrified specimens does not reliably converge on the correct structure. Random conical tilt reconstructions from negatively stained specimens are reliable, but show variable degrees of artifacts depending on the negative staining protocol. Alignment of class averages from vitrified specimens to a 3D negative stain reference model using FREALIGN largely eliminated artifacts in the resulting 3D maps, but not completely. Our results stress the need for critical evaluation of structures determined by single particle EM.

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