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Breaking the next Cryo-EM resolution barrier - Atomic resolution determination of proteins!

By Ka Man Yip, Niels Fischer, Elham Paknia, Ashwin Chari, Holger Stark

Posted 22 May 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.21.106740

Single particle cryo-EM is a powerful method to solve the three-dimensional structures of biological macromolecules. The technological development of electron microscopes, detectors, automated procedures in combination with user friendly image processing software and ever-increasing computational power have made cryo-EM a successful and largely expanding technology over the last decade. At resolutions better than 4 Å , atomic model building starts becoming possible but the direct visualization of true atomic positions in protein structure determination requires significantly higher (< 1.5 Å ) resolution, which so far could not be attained by cryo-EM. The direct visualization of atom positions is essential for understanding protein-catalyzed chemical reaction mechanisms and to study drug- binding and -interference with protein function. Here we report a 1.25 Å resolution structure of apoferritin obtained by cryo-EM with a newly developed electron microscope providing unprecedented structural details. Our apoferritin structure has almost twice the 3D information content of the current world record reconstruction (at 1.54 Å resolution). For the first time in cryo-EM we can visualize individual atoms in a protein, see density for hydrogen atoms and single atom chemical modifications. Beyond the nominal improvement in resolution we can also show a significant improvement in quality of the cryo-EM density map which is highly relevant for using cryo-EM in structure-based drug design. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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