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An atomic model of brome mosaic virus using direct electron detection and real-space optimization.


Advances in electron cryo-microscopy have enabled structure determination of macromolecules at near-atomic resolution. However, structure determination, even using de novo methods, remains susceptible to model bias and overfitting. Here we describe a complete workflow for data acquisition, image processing, all-atom modelling and validation of brome mosaic virus, an RNA virus. Data were collected with a direct electron detector in integrating mode and an exposure beyond the traditional radiation damage limit. The final density map has a resolution of 3.8 Å as assessed by two independent data sets and maps. We used the map to derive an all-atom model with a newly implemented real-space optimization protocol. The validity of the model was verified by its match with the density map and a previous model from X-ray crystallography, as well as the internal consistency of models from independent maps. This study demonstrates a practical approach to obtain a rigorously validated atomic resolution electron cryo-microscopy structure.