1. Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics
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Low cost, high performance processing of single particle cryo-electron microscopy data in the cloud

  1. Michael A Cianfrocco  Is a corresponding author
  2. Andres E Leschziner
  1. Harvard University, United States
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Cite this article as: eLife 2015;4:e06664 doi: 10.7554/eLife.06664


The advent of a new generation of electron microscopes and direct electron detectors has realized the potential of single particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) as a technique to generate high-resolution structures. Calculating these structures requires high performance computing clusters, a resource that may be limiting to many likely cryo-EM users. To address this limitation and facilitate the spread of cryo-EM, we developed a publicly available 'off-the-shelf' computing environment on Amazon's elastic cloud computing infrastructure. This environment provides users with single particle cryo-EM software packages and the ability to create computing clusters with 16 to 480+ CPUs. We tested our computing environment using a publicly available 80S yeast ribosome dataset and estimate that laboratories could determine high-resolution cryo-EM structures for $50 to $1,500 per structure within a timeframe comparable to local clusters. Our analysis shows that Amazon's cloud computing environment may offer a viable computing environment for cryo-EM.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Michael A Cianfrocco

    Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Andres E Leschziner

    Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Sjors HW Scheres, Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: January 25, 2015
  2. Accepted: May 1, 2015
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: May 8, 2015 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: May 22, 2015 (version 2)


© 2015, Cianfrocco & Leschziner

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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