Multi-resolution contour-based fitting of macromolecular structures

J Mol Biol. 2002 Mar 29;317(3):375-84. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.2002.5438.


A novel contour-based matching criterion is presented for the quantitative docking of high-resolution structures of components into low-resolution maps of macromolecular complexes. The proposed Laplacian filter is combined with a six-dimensional search using fast Fourier transforms to rapidly scan the rigid-body degrees of freedom of a probe molecule relative to a fixed target density map. A comparison of the docking performance with the standard cross-correlation criterion demonstrates that contour matching with the Laplacian filter significantly extends the viable resolution range of correlation-based fitting to resolutions as low as 30 A. The gain in docking precision at medium to low resolution (15-30 A) is critical for image reconstructions from electron microscopy (EM). The new algorithm enables for the first time the reliable docking of smaller molecular components into EM densities of large biomolecular assemblies at such low resolutions. As an example of the practical effectiveness of contour-based fitting, a new pseudo-atomic model of a microtubule was constructed from a 20 A resolution EM map and from atomic structures of alpha and beta tubulin subunits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microtubules / chemistry*
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Protein Subunits
  • Rec A Recombinases / chemistry
  • Rec A Recombinases / ultrastructure
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Rotation
  • Tubulin / chemistry*
  • Tubulin / ultrastructure


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Protein Subunits
  • Tubulin
  • Rec A Recombinases