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Thresholding of cryo-EM density maps by false discovery rate control

By Maximilian Beckers, Arjen J. Jakobi, Carsten Sachse

Posted 23 Jul 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/374546 (published DOI: 10.1107/s2052252518014434)

Cryo-EM now commonly generates close-to-atomic resolution as well as intermediate resolution maps from macromolecules observed in isolation and in situ. Interpreting these maps remains a challenging task due to poor signal in the highest resolution shells and the necessity to select a threshold for density analysis. In order to facilitate this process, we developed a statistical framework for the generation of confidence maps by multiple hypothesis testing and false discovery rate (FDR) control. In this way, 3D confidence maps contain separated signal from background noise in the form of local detection rates of EM density values. We demonstrate that confidence maps and FDR-based thresholding can be used for the interpretation of near-atomic resolution single-particle structures as well as lower resolution maps determined by subtomogram averaging. Confidence maps represent a conservative way of interpreting molecular structures due to minimized noise. At the same time they provide a detection error with respect to background noise, which is associated with the density and particularly beneficial for the interpretation of weaker cryo-EM densities in cases of conformational flexibility and lower occupancy of bound molecules and ions to the structure.

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