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Classifying liganded states in heterogeneous single-particle cryo-EM datasets


A powerful aspect of single-particle cryogenic electron microscopy is its ability to determine high-resolution structures from samples containing heterogeneous mixtures of the same macromolecule in different conformational or compositional states. Beyond determining structures at higher resolutions, one outstanding question is if macromolecules with only subtle conformation differences, such as the same protein bound with different ligands in the same binding pocket, can be separated reliably, and if information concerning binding kinetics can be derived from the particle distributions of different conformations obtained in classification. In this study, we address these questions by assessing the classification of synthetic heterogeneous datasets of Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1 generated by combining different homogeneous experimental datasets. Our results indicate that classification can isolate highly homogeneous subsets of particle for calculating high-resolution structures containing individual ligands, but with limitations.

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