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J Struct Biol. 2009 Nov;168(2):323-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2009.06.010. Epub 2009 Jun 21.

Dual-axis target mapping and automated sequential acquisition of dual-axis EM tomographic data.

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The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, San Francisco, 94158-2517, USA.


Dual-axis electron microscopic tomography minimizes the missing wedge-induced resolution loss by taking two complementary tilt data sets of the same target along two orthogonal axes. The potential of this powerful approach has been hampered by the practical challenges inherent in finding the original targets that are dramatically displaced due to non-eucentric specimen rotation. Not only is the manual search for the original targets time consuming and tedious but the added dose during manual searching is uncontrollable. We have developed a hierarchical alignment scheme that allows tomographic data to be collected from an arbitrary number of target sites in one grid orientation and then to find and collect orthogonal data sets with little or no user intervention. Inspired by the successful multi-scale mapping in Leginon, our alignment is performed in three levels to gradually pinpoint the original targets. At the lowest level the grid lattice is used to determine the rotation angle and translational shift resulting from specimen rotation via auto- and cross-correlative analysis of a pair of atlas maps constructed before and after specimen rotation. The target locations are further refined at the next level using a pair of smaller atlas maps. The final refinement of target positions is done by aligning the target contained image tiles. Given the batch processing nature of this hierarchical alignment, multiple targets are initially selected in a group and then sequentially acquired. Upon completion of the data collection on all the targets along the first axis and after specimen rotation, the hierarchical alignment is performed to relocate the original targets. The data collection is then resumed on these targets for the second axis. Therefore, only one specimen rotation is needed for collecting multiple dual-axis tomographic data sets. The experiment of acquiring 20S Proteasomes dual-axis tomographic data sets in vitreous ice at 86,000x CCD magnification on our FEI Tecnai Polara TF30 electron microscope has suggested that the developed scheme is very robust. The extra doses for finding and centering the original targets are almost negligible. This scheme has been integrated into UCSF Tomography software suite that can be downloaded at free for academic use.

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