Visualizing density maps with UCSF Chimera

J Struct Biol. 2007 Jan;157(1):281-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2006.06.010. Epub 2006 Jul 15.


We describe methods for interactive visualization and analysis of density maps available in the UCSF Chimera molecular modeling package. The methods enable segmentation, fitting, coarse modeling, measuring and coloring of density maps for elucidating structures of large molecular assemblies such as virus particles, ribosomes, microtubules, and chromosomes. The methods are suitable for density maps with resolutions in the range spanned by electron microscope single particle reconstructions and tomography. All of the tools described are simple, robust and interactive, involving computations taking only seconds. An advantage of the UCSF Chimera package is its integration of a large collection of interactive methods. Interactive tools are sufficient for performing simple analyses and also serve to prepare input for and examine results from more complex, specialized, and algorithmic non-interactive analysis software. While both interactive and non-interactive analyses are useful, we discuss only interactive methods here.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophage T4 / chemistry
  • Computational Biology
  • Computer Graphics*
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Myosins / chemistry
  • Software*


  • Myosins