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The knowledge of the molecular structure of LDL, a large lipoprotein complex, is of great interest for medical investigations. Currently available LDL crystals do not diffract to high resolution and do not allow the application of standard crystallographic techniques. Additional difficulties arise because of a very dense crystal packing and the presence of several components with quite different mean densities. Several ab initio phasing methods previously reported by the authors have been successfully applied to find a crystallographic image of LDL at a resolution of 27 Å. The most promising results have been obtained using direct phasing with a connectivity analysis of the electron-density maps. The current image makes it possible to discern a single particle covered by a layer of relatively high density that is asymmetrically distributed on the particle surface. It shows a partition of high and low densities inside the particle and, in particular, strips of varying density in the lipid core.

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