Electron density maps of membrane proteins or large macromolecular complexes are frequently only determined at medium resolution between 4 Å and 10 Å, either by cryo-electron microscopy or X-ray crystallography. In these density maps, the general arrangement of secondary structure elements (SSEs) is revealed, whereas their directionality and connectivity remain elusive. We demonstrate that the topology of proteins with up to 250 amino acids can be determined from such density maps when combined with a computational protein folding protocol. Furthermore, we accurately reconstruct atomic detail in loop regions and amino acid side chains not visible in the experimental data. The EM-Fold algorithm assembles the SSEs de novo before atomic detail is added using Rosetta. In a benchmark of 27 proteins, the protocol consistently and reproducibly achieves models with root mean square deviation values <3 Å.
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