CTFFIND5 provides improved insight into quality, tilt and thickness of TEM samples

Publication Type

Journal Article

Year of Publication


Refereed Designation

Not refereed






Images taken by transmission electron microscopes are usually affected by lens aberrations and image defocus, among other factors. These distortions can be modeled in reciprocal space using the contrast transfer function (CTF). Accurate estimation and correction of the CTF is essential for restoring the high-resolution signal in an image and has been one of the key aspects of the “resolution revolution” in cryogenic electron microscopy (cryoEM). Previously, we described the implementation of algorithms for this task in the cisTEM software package (Grant et al., 2018). Here we show that taking sample characteristics, such as thickness and tilt, into account can improve CTF estimation. This is particularly important when imaging cellular samples, where measurement of sample thickness and geometry derived from accurate modeling of the Thon ring pattern helps judging the quality of the sample. This improved CTF estimation has been implemented in CTFFIND5, a new version of the cisTEM program CTFFIND. We evaluated the accuracy of these estimates using images of tilted aquaporin crystals and eukaryotic cells thinned by focused ion beam milling. We estimate that with micrographs of sufficient quality CTFFIND5 can measure sample tilt with an accuracy of 3° and sample thickness with an accuracy of 5 nm.