Year of Publication
Electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) can generate high-resolution views of cells with faithful preservation of molecular structure. In situ cryo-EM, therefore, has enormous potential to reveal the atomic details of biological processes in their native context. However, in practice, the utility of in situ cryo-EM is limited by the difficulty of reliably locating and confidently identifying molecular targets (particles) and their conformational states in the crowded cellular environment. We recently showed that 2DTM, a fine-grained template-based search applied to cryo-EM micrographs, can localize particles in two-dimensional views of cells with high precision. Here we demonstrate that the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) observed with 2DTM can be used to differentiate related complexes in focused ion beam (FIB)-milled cell sections. We apply this method in two contexts to locate and classify related intermediate states of 60S ribosome biogenesis in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae cell nucleus. In the first, we separate the nuclear pre-60S population from the cytoplasmic mature 60S population, using the subcellular localization to validate assignment. In the second, we show that relative 2DTM SNRs can be used to separate mixed populations of nuclear pre-60S that are not visually separable. We use a maximum likelihood approach to define the probability of each particle belonging to each class, thereby establishing a statistic to describe the confidence of our classification. Without the need to generate 3D reconstructions, 2DTM can be applied even when only a few target particles exist in a cell.