Zernike phase contrast cryo-electron microscopy (ZPC-cryoEM) is an emerging technique that is capable of producing higher image contrast than conventional cryoEM. By combining this technique with advanced image processing methods, we achieved subnanometer resolution for two biological specimens: 2D bacteriorhodopsin crystal and epsilon15 bacteriophage. For an asymmetric reconstruction of epsilon15 bacteriophage, ZPC-cryoEM can reduce the required amount of data by a factor of approximately 3, compared with conventional cryoEM. The reconstruction was carried out to 13 A resolution without the need to correct the contrast transfer function. New structural features at the portal vertex of the epsilon15 bacteriophage are revealed in this reconstruction. Using ZPC cryo-electron tomography (ZPC-cryoET), a similar level of data reduction and higher resolution structures of epsilon15 bacteriophage can be obtained relative to conventional cryoET. These results show quantitatively the benefits of ZPC-cryoEM and ZPC-cryoET for structural determinations of macromolecular machines at nanometer and subnanometer resolutions.
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