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Simulations of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) images of biological samples can be used to produce test datasets to support the development of instrumentation, methods, and software, as well as to assess data acquisition and analysis strategies. To be useful, these simulations need to be based on physically realistic models which include large volumes of amorphous ice. The gold standard model for EM image simulation is a physical atom-based ice model produced using molecular dynamics simulations. Although practical for small sample volumes; for simulation of cryo-EM data from large sample volumes, this can be too computationally expensive. We have evaluated a Gaussian Random Field (GRF) ice model which is shown to be more computationally efficient for large sample volumes. The simulated EM images are compared with the gold standard atom-based ice model approach and shown to be directly comparable. Comparison with experimentally acquired data shows the Gaussian random field ice model produces realistic simulations. The software required has been implemented in the Parakeet software package and the underlying atomic models are available online for use by the wider community.

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Rosalind Franklin Institute, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Didcot, OX11 0FA, United Kingdom; Diamond Light Source, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Didcot, OX11 0DE, United Kingdom. Electronic address:


Cryoelectron Microscopy, Ice, Software, Molecular Dynamics Simulation