Electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) has been used to determine the atomic coordinates (models) from density maps of biological assemblies. These models can be assessed by their overall fit to the experimental data and stereochemical information. However, these models do not annotate the actual density values of the atoms nor their positional uncertainty. Here, we introduce a computational procedure to derive an atomic model from a cryo-EM map with annotated metadata. The accuracy of such a model is validated by a faithful replication of the experimental cryo-EM map computed using the coordinates and associated metadata. The functional interpretation of any structural features in the model and its utilization for future studies can be made in the context of its measure of uncertainty. We applied this protocol to the 3.3-Å map of the mature P22 bacteriophage capsid, a large and complex macromolecular assembly. With this protocol, we identify and annotate previously undescribed molecular interactions between capsid subunits that are crucial to maintain stability in the absence of cementing proteins or cross-linking, as occur in other bacteriophages.
Keywords: P22; annotation; cryo-EM; model; structure.