For many years, structure determination of biological macromolecules by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) was limited to large complexes or low-resolution models. With recent advances in electron detection and image processing, the resolution by cryo-EM is now beginning to rival X-ray crystallography. A new generation of electron detectors record images with unprecedented quality, while new image-processing tools correct for sample movements and classify images according to different structural states. Combined, these advances yield density maps with sufficient detail to deduce the atomic structure for a range of specimens. Here, we review the recent advances and illustrate the exciting new opportunities that they offer to structural biology research.
Keywords: 3D reconstruction; cryo-electron microscopy; electron detection; image processing; macromolecular complexes; maximum-likelihood optimization; single-particle analysis.
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