Automatic magnification determination of electron cryomicroscopy images using apoferritin as a standard


Interpretation of the structural information in cryomicroscopy images recorded on film or CCD camera requires a precise knowledge of the electron microscope parameters that affect image features such as magnification and defocus. Magnification must be determined in order to combine data from different images in a three-dimensional reconstruction and to accurately scale reconstructions for fitting with atomic resolution models. A method is described for estimating the absolute magnification of an electron micrograph of a frozen-hydrated specimen using horse spleen apoferritin as a standard. Apoferritin is a widely available protein complex of known structure that may be included with the specimen of interest and imaged under conditions identical to those used for imaging other biological specimens by cryomicroscopy. The sum of the structure factor intensities of images of randomly-oriented apoferritin particles shows three low resolution peaks to 25Å that arise from the hollow ball structure of apoferritin. Comparison of peak positions of the experimental intensities with structure factor intensities of an atomic model of apoferritin determined by X-ray crystallography provides a scale factor for estimating the absolute magnification of the micrograph. We compare the magnification estimate using apoferritin to that obtained with tobacco mosaic virus, another common magnification standard for cryomicroscopy. We verify the precision of the method by acquiring images with a systematic variation of magnification.

Journal details

Volume 180
Issue number 1
Pages 243-248
Publication date