Ab-initio Contrast Estimation and Denoising of Cryo-EM Images

by   Yunpeng Shi, et al.

Background and Objective: The contrast of cryo-EM images vary from one to another, primarily due to the uneven thickness of ice layers. The variation of contrast can affect the quality of 2-D class averaging, 3-D ab-initio modeling, and 3-D heterogeneity analysis. Contrast estimation is currently performed during 3-D iterative refinement. As a result, the estimates are not available for class averaging and ab-initio modeling. However, these methods require good initial estimates of 3-D volumes and 3-D rotations of molecules. This paper aims to solve the contrast estimation problem in the ab-initio stage, without estimating the 3-D volume. Methods: The key observation underlying our analysis is that the 2-D covariance matrix of the raw images is related to the covariance of the underlying clean images, the noise variance, and the contrast variability between images. We show that the contrast variability can be derived from the 2-D covariance matrix and use the existing Covariance Wiener Filtering (CWF) framework to estimate it. We also demonstrate a modification of CWF to estimate the contrast of individual images. Results: Our method improves the contrast estimation by a large margin, compared to the previous CWF method. Its estimation accuracy is often comparable to that of an oracle that knows the ground truth covariance of the clean images. The more accurate contrast estimation also improves the quality of image denoising as demonstrated in both synthetic and experimental datasets. Conclusions: This paper proposes an effective method for contrast estimation directly from noisy images without using any 3-D volume information. It enables contrast correction in the earlier stage of single particle analysis, and may improve the accuracy of downstream processing.


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