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Cryoelectron tomography (cryo-ET) and subtomogram averaging (STA) allow direct visualization and structural studies of biological macromolecules in their native cellular environment, in situ. Often, low signal-to-noise ratios in tomograms, low particle abundance within the cell, and low throughput in typical cryo-ET workflows severely limit the obtainable structural information. To help mitigate these limitations, here we apply a compressed sensing approach using 3D second-order total variation (CS-TV2) to tomographic reconstruction. We show that CS-TV2 increases the signal-to-noise ratio in tomograms, enhancing direct visualization of macromolecules, while preserving high-resolution information up to the secondary structure level. We show that, particularly with small datasets, CS-TV2 allows improvement of the resolution of STA maps. We further demonstrate that the CS-TV2 algorithm is applicable to cellular specimens, leading to increased visibility of molecular detail within tomograms. This work highlights the potential of compressed sensing-based reconstruction algorithms for cryo-ET and in situ structural biology.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





408 - 417.e4


compressed sensing, cryo-EM, cryo-ET, cryo-electron microscopy, electron cryomicroscopy, image processing, in situ structural biology, subtomogram averaging