Exploring applications of crowdsourcing to cryo-EM

J Struct Biol. 2018 Jul;203(1):37-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2018.02.006. Epub 2018 Feb 24.


Extraction of particles from cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) micrographs is a crucial step in processing single-particle datasets. Although algorithms have been developed for automatic particle picking, these algorithms generally rely on two-dimensional templates for particle identification, which may exhibit biases that can propagate artifacts through the reconstruction pipeline. Manual picking is viewed as a gold-standard solution for particle selection, but it is too time-consuming to perform on data sets of thousands of images. In recent years, crowdsourcing has proven effective at leveraging the open web to manually curate datasets. In particular, citizen science projects such as Galaxy Zoo have shown the power of appealing to users' scientific interests to process enormous amounts of data. To this end, we explored the possible applications of crowdsourcing in cryo-EM particle picking, presenting a variety of novel experiments including the production of a fully annotated particle set from untrained citizen scientists. We show the possibilities and limitations of crowdsourcing particle selection tasks, and explore further options for crowdsourcing cryo-EM data processing.

Keywords: Computation; Crowdsourcing; Cryo-EM; Data processing; Single-particle analysis; Structural biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Crowdsourcing*
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy*
  • Data Analysis
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted