Throughput and resolution with a next-generation direct electron detector

IUCrJ. 2019 Oct 24;6(Pt 6):1007-1013. doi: 10.1107/S2052252519012661. eCollection 2019 Nov 1.


Direct electron detectors (DEDs) have revolutionized cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) by facilitating the correction of beam-induced motion and radiation damage, and also by providing high-resolution image capture. A new-generation DED, the DE64, has been developed by Direct Electron that has good performance in both integrating and counting modes. The camera has been characterized in both modes in terms of image quality, throughput and resolution of cryo-EM reconstructions. The modulation transfer function, noise power spectrum and detective quantum efficiency (DQE) were determined for both modes, as well as the number of images per unit time. Although the DQE for counting mode was superior to that for integrating mode, the data-collection throughput for this mode was more than ten times slower. Since throughput and resolution are related in single-particle cryo-EM, data for apoferritin were collected and reconstructed using integrating mode, integrating mode in conjunction with a Volta phase plate (VPP) and counting mode. Only the counting-mode data resulted in a better than 3 Å resolution reconstruction with similar numbers of particles, and this increased performance could not be compensated for by the increased throughput of integrating mode or by the increased low-frequency contrast of integrating mode with the VPP. These data show that the superior image quality provided by counting mode is more important for high-resolution cryo-EM reconstructions than the superior throughput of integrating mode.

Keywords: 3D reconstruction; advances in microscope hardware; direct electron detectors; image processing; single-particle cryo-EM.