One number does not fit all: mapping local variations in resolution in cryo-EM reconstructions

J Struct Biol. 2013 Nov;184(2):226-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2013.08.002. Epub 2013 Aug 14.


The resolution of density maps from single particle analysis is usually measured in terms of the highest spatial frequency to which consistent information has been obtained. This calculation represents an average over the entire reconstructed volume. In practice, however, substantial local variations in resolution may occur, either from intrinsic properties of the specimen or for technical reasons such as a non-isotropic distribution of viewing orientations. To address this issue, we propose the use of a space-frequency representation, the short-space Fourier transform, to assess the quality of a density map, voxel-by-voxel, i.e. by local resolution mapping. In this approach, the experimental volume is divided into small subvolumes and the resolution determined for each of them. It is illustrated in applications both to model data and to experimental density maps. Regions with lower-than-average resolution may be mobile components or ones with incomplete occupancy or result from multiple conformational states. To improve the interpretability of reconstructions, we propose an adaptive filtering approach that reconciles the resolution to which individual features are calculated with the results of the local resolution map.

Keywords: Cryo-electron microscopy; Image heterogeneity; Masking; Resolution; Short-space Fourier transform; Three-dimensional reconstruction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Capsid Proteins / chemistry
  • Capsid Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / methods*
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / ultrastructure
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Ribosome Subunits, Large, Bacterial / chemistry
  • Ribosome Subunits, Large, Bacterial / ultrastructure
  • Ribosome Subunits, Small, Bacterial / chemistry
  • Ribosome Subunits, Small, Bacterial / ultrastructure
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Thermus thermophilus


  • Capsid Proteins