Improvement of cryo-EM maps by density modification

Nat Methods. 2020 Sep;17(9):923-927. doi: 10.1038/s41592-020-0914-9. Epub 2020 Aug 17.


A density-modification procedure for improving maps from single-particle electron cryogenic microscopy (cryo-EM) is presented. The theoretical basis of the method is identical to that of maximum-likelihood density modification, previously used to improve maps from macromolecular X-ray crystallography. Key differences from applications in crystallography are that the errors in Fourier coefficients are largely in the phases in crystallography but in both phases and amplitudes in cryo-EM, and that half-maps with independent errors are available in cryo-EM. These differences lead to a distinct approach for combination of information from starting maps with information obtained in the density-modification process. The density-modification procedure was applied to a set of 104 datasets and improved map-model correlation and increased the visibility of details in many of the maps. The procedure requires two unmasked half-maps and a sequence file or other source of information on the volume of the macromolecule that has been imaged.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoferritins / chemistry*
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / methods*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Protein Conformation
  • Software*


  • Apoferritins