In the past several years, technological and methodological advancements in single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) have paved the way for the high-resolution structure determination of biological macromolecules. Despite the advances in cryo-EM, there is still scope for improvement in various aspects of the single-particle analysis workflow. Single-particle analysis demands a suitable software package for high-throughput automatic data acquisition. Several automatic data acquisition software packages were developed for automatic imaging for single-particle cryo-EM in the last eight years.

A paper by researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, titled User-friendly, high-throughput, and fully automated data acquisition software for single-particle cryo-electron microscopy, presents an application of a fully automated image acquisition pipeline for vitrified biomolecules under low-dose conditions. It demonstrates a software packag, which can collect cryo-EM data fully, automatically and precisely.

Additionally, various microscopic parameters are easily controlled by this software package. This protocol demonstrates the potential of the software in automated imaging of the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein with a 200 keV cryo-electron microscope equipped with a direct electron detector (DED). Around 3,000 cryo-EM movie images were acquired in a single session (48 h) of data collection, yielding an atomic-resolution structure of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, this structural study indicates that the spike protein adopts two major conformations, 1-RBD (receptor-binding domain) up open and all RBD down closed conformations.

The research appears in the journal Immunology and Infection.

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