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J Struct Biol. 2007 Jan;157(1):95-105. Epub 2006 Aug 15.

Ruby-Helix: an implementation of helical image processing based on object-oriented scripting language.

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Department of Cell Biology, University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390-9039, USA.


Helical image analysis in combination with electron microscopy has been used to study three-dimensional structures of various biological filaments or tubes, such as microtubules, actin filaments, and bacterial flagella. A number of packages have been developed to carry out helical image analysis. Some biological specimens, however, have a symmetry break (seam) in their three-dimensional structure, even though their subunits are mostly arranged in a helical manner. We refer to these objects as "asymmetric helices". All the existing packages are designed for helically symmetric specimens, and do not allow analysis of asymmetric helical objects, such as microtubules with seams. Here, we describe Ruby-Helix, a new set of programs for the analysis of "helical" objects with or without a seam. Ruby-Helix is built on top of the Ruby programming language and is the first implementation of asymmetric helical reconstruction for practical image analysis. It also allows easier and semi-automated analysis, performing iterative unbending and accurate determination of the repeat length. As a result, Ruby-Helix enables us to analyze motor-microtubule complexes with higher throughput to higher resolution.

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