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      Negative Staining and Image Classification – Powerful Tools in Modern Electron Microscopy

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          Vitrification is the state-of-the-art specimen preparation technique for molecular electron microscopy (EM) and therefore negative staining may appear to be an outdated approach. In this paper we illustrate the specific advantages of negative staining, ensuring that this technique will remain an important tool for the study of biological macromolecules. Due to the higher image contrast, much smaller molecules can be visualized by negative staining. Also, while molecules prepared by vitrification usually adopt random orientations in the amorphous ice layer, negative staining tends to induce preferred orientations of the molecules on the carbon support film. Combining negative staining with image classification techniques makes it possible to work with very heterogeneous molecule populations, which are difficult or even impossible to analyze using vitrified specimens.

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          Structure of 20S proteasome from yeast at 2.4 A resolution.

          The crystal structure of the 20S proteasome from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae shows that its 28 protein subunits are arranged as an (alpha1...alpha7, beta1...beta7)2 complex in four stacked rings and occupy unique locations. The interior of the particle, which harbours the active sites, is only accessible by some very narrow side entrances. The beta-type subunits are synthesized as proproteins before being proteolytically processed for assembly into the particle. The proforms of three of the seven different beta-type subunits, beta1/PRE3, beta2/PUP1 and beta5/PRE2, are cleaved between the threonine at position 1 and the last glycine of the pro-sequence, with release of the active-site residue Thr 1. These three beta-type subunits have inhibitor-binding sites, indicating that PRE2 has a chymotrypsin-like and a trypsin-like activity and that PRE3 has peptidylglutamyl peptide hydrolytic specificity. Other beta-type subunits are processed to an intermediate form, indicating that an additional nonspecific endopeptidase activity may exist which is important for peptide hydrolysis and for the generation of ligands for class I molecules of the major histocompatibility complex.
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            Crystal structure of the extracellular segment of integrin alpha Vbeta3.

            Integrins are alphabeta heterodimeric receptors that mediate divalent cation-dependent cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesion through tightly regulated interactions with ligands. We have solved the crystal structure of the extracellular portion of integrin alphaVbeta3 at 3.1 A resolution. Its 12 domains assemble into an ovoid "head" and two "tails." In the crystal, alphaVbeta3 is severely bent at a defined region in its tails, reflecting an unusual flexibility that may be linked to integrin regulation. The main inter-subunit interface lies within the head, between a seven-bladed beta-propeller from alphaV and an A domain from beta3, and bears a striking resemblance to the Galpha/Gbeta interface in G proteins. A metal ion-dependent adhesion site (MIDAS) in the betaA domain is positioned to participate in a ligand-binding interface formed of loops from the propeller and betaA domains. MIDAS lies adjacent to a calcium-binding site with a potential regulatory function.
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              Three-dimensional reconstruction from a single-exposure, random conical tilt series applied to the 50S ribosomal subunit of Escherichia coli.

              We present a new reconstruction method that takes advantage of the fact that many biological macromolecular assemblies show a preferred orientation with respect to the plane of the specimen grid in the electron microscopic preparation. From one micrograph taken of such a specimen tilted by a large angle, a conical tilt series with random azimuthal angles can be extracted and used for a three-dimensional reconstruction. Our technique allows the determination of the molecular structure under low-dose conditions, which are not achievable with reconstruction methods that use conventional tilt series. The reconstruction method combines a number of existing image processing techniques with a newly developed weighted back-projection algorithm designed for three-dimensional reconstruction from projections taken with arbitrary projecting directions. The method is described as it was applied to the three-dimensional reconstruction of the structure of the 50S ribosomal subunit of Escherichia coli (E. coli).

                Author and article information

                Biol Proced Online
                Biological Procedures Online
                Biological Procedures Online
                19 March 2004
                : 6
                : 23-34
                [1 ]Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School. 240 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA, 02115. USA.
                [2 ]Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School. 240 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA, 02115. USA.
                Author notes
                Thomas Walz, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School. 240 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA, 02115. USA. twalz@
                Copyright © March 03, 2004, M Ohi et al. Published in Biological Procedures Online under license from the authors. Copying, printing, redistribution and storage permitted.
                Research Article

                Life sciences

                microscopy, electron, negative staining, protein conformation


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