The challenge of determining handedness in electron tomography and the use of DNA origami gold nanoparticle helices as molecular standards

J Struct Biol. 2013 Jul;183(1):95-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2013.04.008. Epub 2013 Apr 30.


The apparent handedness of an EM-tomography reconstruction depends on a number of conventions and can be confused in many ways. As the number of different hardware and software combinations being used for electron tomography continue to climb, and the reconstructions being produced reach higher and higher resolutions, the need to verify the hand of the results has increased. Here we enumerate various steps in a typical tomography experiment that affect handedness and show that DNA origami gold nanoparticle helices can be used as convenient and fail-safe handedness standards.

Keywords: DNA origami; Electron tomography; Handedness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / chemistry*
  • Electron Microscope Tomography / methods*
  • Gold / chemistry
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Models, Molecular


  • Gold
  • DNA