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Low resolution refinement of atomic models against crystallographic data

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This review describes some of the problems encountered during low-resolution refinement and map calculation. Refinement is considered as an application of Bayes’ theorem, allowing combination of information from various sources including crystallographic experimental data and prior chemical and structural knowledge. The sources of prior knowledge relevant to macromolecules include basic chemical information such as bonds and angles, structural information from reference models of known homologs, knowledge about secondary structures, hydrogen bonding patterns, and similarity of non-crystallographically related copies of a molecule. Additionally, prior information encapsulating local conformational conservation is exploited, keeping local interatomic distances similar to those in the starting atomic model. The importance of designing an accurate likelihood function—the only link between model parameters and observed data—is emphasized. The review also reemphasizes the importance of phases, and describes how the use of raw observed amplitudes could give a better correlation between the calculated and “true” maps. It is shown that very noisy or absent observations can be replaced by calculated structure factors, weighted according to the accuracy of the atomic model. This approach helps to smoothen the map. However, such replacement should be used sparingly, as the bias toward errors in the model could be too much to avoid. It is in general recommended that, whenever a new map is calculated, map quality should be judged by inspection of the parts of the map where there is no atomic model. It is also noted that it is advisable to work with multiple blurred and sharpened maps, as different parts of a crystal may exhibit different degrees of mobility. Doing so can allow accurate building of atomic models, accounting for overall shape as well as finer structural details. Some of the results described in this review have been implemented in the programs REFMAC5, ProSMART and LORESTR, which are available as part of the CCP4 software suite.




Nicholls, R. A., Kovalevskiy, O., & Murshudov, G. N. (2017). Low resolution refinement of atomic models against crystallographic data. In Methods in Molecular Biology (Vol. 1607, pp. 565–593). Humana Press Inc.

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