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Publication Date




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Frontiers in Bioinformatics




710119 (1-10)


Although cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) has been successfully used to derive atomic structures for many proteins, it is still challenging to derive atomic structures when the resolution of cryo-EM density maps is in the medium resolution range, such as 5–10 Å. Detection of protein secondary structures, such as helices and β-sheets, from cryo-EM density maps provides constraints for deriving atomic structures from such maps. As more deep learning methodologies are being developed for solving various molecular problems, effective tools are needed for users to access them. We have developed an effective software bundle, DeepSSETracer, for the detection of protein secondary structure from cryo-EM component maps in medium resolution. The bundle contains the network architecture and a U-Net model trained with a curriculum and gradient of episodic memory (GEM). The bundle integrates the deep neural network with the visualization capacity provided in ChimeraX. Using a Linux server that is remotely accessed by Windows users, it takes about 6 s on one CPU and one GPU for the trained deep neural network to detect secondary structures in a cryo-EM component map containing 446 amino acids. A test using 28 chain components of cryo-EM maps shows overall residue-level F1 scores of 0.72 and 0.65 to detect helices and β-sheets, respectively. Although deep learning applications are built on software frameworks, such as PyTorch and Tensorflow, our pioneer work here shows that integration of deep learning applications with ChimeraX is a promising and effective approach. Our experiments show that the F1 score measured at the residue level is an effective evaluation of secondary structure detection for individual classes. The test using 28 cryo-EM component maps shows that DeepSSETracer detects β-sheets more accurately than Emap2sec+, with a weighted average residue-level F1 score of 0.65 and 0.42, respectively. It also shows that Emap2sec+ detects helices more accurately than DeepSSETracer with a weighted average residue-level F1 score of 0.77 and 0.72 respectively.


© 2021 Mu, Sazzed, Alshammari, Sun and He.

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Article states: The original contributions presented in the study are included in the article/Supplementary Material, further inquiries can be directed to the corresponding authors.

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Original Publication Citation

Mu, Y., Sazzed, S., Alshammari, M., Sun, J., & He, J. (2021). A tool for segmentation of secondary structures in 3D cryo-EM density map components using deep convolutional neural networks. Frontiers in Bioinformatics, 1, 1-10, Article 710119.


0000-0002-1386-5447 (Alshammari)