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Methods Enzymol. 2010;482:73-100. doi: 10.1016/S0076-6879(10)82003-8.

Resolution measures in molecular electron microscopy.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Texas, Houston Medical School, Houston, Texas, USA.


Resolution measures in molecular electron microscopy provide means to evaluate quality of macromolecular structures computed from sets of their two-dimensional (2D) line projections. When the amount of detail in the computed density map is low there are no external standards by which the resolution of the result can be judged. Instead, resolution measures in molecular electron microscopy evaluate consistency of the results in reciprocal space and present it as a one-dimensional (1D) function of the modulus of spatial frequency. Here we provide description of standard resolution measures commonly used in electron microscopy. We point out that the organizing principle is the relationship between these measures and the spectral signal-to-noise ratio (SSNR) of the computed density map. Within this framework it becomes straightforward to describe the connection between the outcome of resolution evaluations and the quality of electron microscopy maps, in particular, the optimum filtration, in the Wiener sense, of the computed map. We also provide a discussion of practical difficulties of evaluation of resolution in electron microscopy, particularly in terms of its sensitivity to data processing operations used during structure determination process in single particle analysis and in electron tomography (ET).

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