Single particle 3D reconstruction for 2D crystal images of membrane proteins

J Struct Biol. 2014 Mar;185(3):267-77. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2013.12.011. Epub 2013 Dec 29.


In cases where ultra-flat cryo-preparations of well-ordered two-dimensional (2D) crystals are available, electron crystallography is a powerful method for the determination of the high-resolution structures of membrane and soluble proteins. However, crystal unbending and Fourier-filtering methods in electron crystallography three-dimensional (3D) image processing are generally limited in their performance for 2D crystals that are badly ordered or non-flat. Here we present a single particle image processing approach, which is implemented as an extension of the 2D crystallographic pipeline realized in the 2dx software package, for the determination of high-resolution 3D structures of membrane proteins. The algorithm presented, addresses the low single-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 2D crystal images by exploiting neighborhood correlation between adjacent proteins in the 2D crystal. Compared with conventional single particle processing for randomly oriented particles, the computational costs are greatly reduced due to the crystal-induced limited search space, which allows a much finer search space compared to classical single particle processing. To reduce the considerable computational costs, our software features a hybrid parallelization scheme for multi-CPU clusters and computer with high-end graphic processing units (GPUs). We successfully apply the new refinement method to the structure of the potassium channel MloK1. The calculated 3D reconstruction shows more structural details and contains less noise than the map obtained by conventional Fourier-filtering based processing of the same 2D crystal images.

Keywords: 2dx; Cryo-electron crystallography; GPGPU; High performance computing; Membrane proteins; Single-particle analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Software*


  • Membrane Proteins