De Novo modeling in cryo-EM density maps with Pathwalking

J Struct Biol. 2016 Dec;196(3):289-298. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2016.06.004. Epub 2016 Jul 17.


As electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) can now frequently achieve near atomic resolution, accurate interpretation of these density maps in terms of atomistic detail has become paramount in deciphering macromolecular structure and function. However, there are few software tools for modeling protein structure from cryo-EM density maps in this resolution range. Here, we present an extension of our original Pathwalking protocol, which can automatically trace a protein backbone directly from a near-atomic resolution (3-6Å) density map. The original Pathwalking approach utilized a Traveling Salesman Problem solver for backbone tracing, but manual adjustment was still required during modeling. In the new version, human intervention is minimized and we provide a more robust approach for backbone modeling. This includes iterative secondary structure identification, termini detection and the ability to model multiple subunits without prior segmentation. Overall, the new Pathwalking procedure provides a more complete and robust tool for annotating protein structure function in near-atomic resolution density maps.

Keywords: Backbone model; Protein structure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / methods*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Software*


  • Proteins