A helical processing pipeline for EM structure determination of membrane proteins

Methods. 2011 Dec;55(4):350-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2011.09.013. Epub 2011 Sep 20.


Electron crystallography plays a key role in the structural biology of integral membrane proteins (IMPs) by offering one of the most direct means of providing insight into the functional state of these molecular machines in their lipid-associated forms, and also has the potential to facilitate examination of physiologically relevant transitional states and complexes. Helical or tubular crystals, which are the natural product of proteins crystallizing on the surface of a cylindrical vesicle, offer some unique advantages, such as three-dimensional (3D) information from a single view, compared to other crystalline forms. While a number of software packages are available for processing images of helical crystals to produce 3D electron density maps, widespread exploitation of helical image reconstruction is limited by a lack of standardized approaches and the initial effort and specialized expertise required. Our goal is to develop an integrated pipeline to enable structure determination by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of IMPs in the form of tubular crystals. We describe here the integration of standard Fourier-Bessel helical analysis techniques into Appion, an integrated, database-driven pipeline.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Crystallography
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission / methods*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Software*


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • MsbA protein, Bacteria