Macromolecular refinement by model morphing using non-atomic parameterizations

Kevin Cowtan*, Jon Agirre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Refinement is a critical step in the determination of a model which explains the crystallographic observations and thus best accounts for the missing phase components. The scattering density is usually described in terms of atomic parameters; however, in macromolecular crystallography the resolution of the data is generally insufficient to determine the values of these parameters for individual atoms. Stereochemical and geometric restraints are used to provide additional information, but produce interrelationships between parameters which slow convergence, resulting in longer refinement times. An alternative approach is proposed in which parameters are not attached to atoms, but to regions of the electron-density map. These parameters can move the density or change the local temperature factor to better explain the structure factors. Varying the size of the region which determines the parameters at a particular position in the map allows the method to be applied at different resolutions without the use of restraints. Potential applications include initial refinement of molecular-replacement models with domain motions, and potentially the use of electron density from other sources such as electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) as the refinement model.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa crystallographica. Section D, Structural biology
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2018


  • Computational methods
  • Low resolution
  • Refinement

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