Ab-initio contrast estimation and denoising of cryo-EM images

Yunpeng Shi, Amit Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background and Objective: The contrast of cryo-EM images varies from one to another, primarily due to the uneven thickness of the ice layer. This contrast variation 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 at the earlier computational stages of class averaging and ab-initio modeling. This paper aims to solve the contrast estimation problem directly from the picked particle images in the ab-initio stage, without estimating the 3-D volume, image rotations, or class averages. 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 we apply 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 restoration 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107018
JournalComputer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


  • Contrast estimation
  • Image denoising
  • Wiener filtering


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