This article presents a method to study large-scale conformational changes by combining electron microscopy (EM) single-particle image analysis and normal mode analysis (NMA). It is referred to as HEMNMA, which stands for hybrid electron microscopy normal mode analysis. NMA of a reference structure (atomic-resolution structure or EM volume) is used to predict possible motions that are then confronted with EM images within an automatic iterative elastic 3D-to-2D alignment procedure to identify actual motions in the imaged samples. HEMNMA can be used to extensively analyze the conformational changes and may be used in combination with classic discrete procedures. The identified conformations allow modeling of deformation pathways compatible with the experimental data. HEMNMA was tested with synthetic and experimental data sets of E. coli 70S ribosome, DNA polymerase Pol α and B subunit complex of the eukaryotic primosome, and tomato bushy stunt virus.
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