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Estimates for the phases of the X-ray diffraction data from the 50S ribosomal particle of Thermus thermophilus has been made to an effective resolution around 80 Å using the few-atoms-modes ab initio technique [Lunin, Lunina, Petrova, Vernoslova, Urzhumtsev & Podjarny (1995). Acta Cryst. D51, 896-903]. This technique models the density with a small number of Gaussian spheres to generate a large number of possible phase sets and then uses clustering algorithms to identify the best ones. Independently, an envelope obtained from electron-micrograph image reconstruction [Yonath, Leonard & Wittmann (1987). Science, 236, 813-816] was oriented and positioned using the molecular-replacement technique, specially adapted to the very low resolution case [Urzhumtsev & Podjarny (1995). Acta Cryst. D51, 888-895]. The two methods show similar packing arrangements.The electron density calculated by the few-atoms-models technique without any assumption on the number of molecules in asymmetric unit or on their shape shows recognizable features of the particle.
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