Visualization of three-dimensional density maps reconstructed from cryoelectron micrographs of viral capsids

J Struct Biol. Jan-Feb 1996;116(1):200-8. doi: 10.1006/jsbi.1996.0031.


Full evaluation of three-dimensional density maps calculated from cryoelectron micrographs of complex supramolecular structures requires that the maps be sifted by a variety of complementary visualization techniques. We present here a primer for a number of such techniques in current widespread use, including surface rendering; serial sections; simulated motion; and real-time manipulation of tiled surfaces displayed on an advanced workstation. The principles on which these techniques operate are briefly reviewed, as are their advantages and limitations, with emphasis on the requirements for visual representation of viral capsid structures. These methods are illustrated in application to a density map of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) capsid at 24 A resolution, which reveals more detailed information than heretofore concerning the inner surface of the icosahedral capsid shell and the 150-A-long channels that pass through each of the 162 capsomers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capsid / ultrastructure*
  • Color
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Freezing
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron*
  • Models, Structural*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Software*