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Phases determined by the molecular-replacement method often suffer from model bias. In extreme cases, the refinement of the atomic model can stall at high free R values when the resulting electron-density maps provide little indication of how to correct the model, sometimes rendering even a correct solution unusable. Here, it is shown that several recent advances in refinement methodology allow productive refinement, even in cases where the molecular-replacement-phased electron-density maps do not allow manual rebuilding. In test calculations performed with a series of homologous models of penicillopepsin using either backbone atoms, or backbone atoms plus conserved core residues, model bias is reduced and refinement can proceed efficiently, even if the initial model is far from the correct one. These new methods combine cross-validation, torsion-angle dynamics simulated annealing and maximum-likelihood target functions. It is also shown that the free R value is an excellent indicator of model quality after refinement, potentially discriminating between correct and incorrect molecular-replacement solutions. The use of phase information, even in the form of bimodal single-isomorphous-replacement phase distributions, greatly improves the radius of convergence of refinement and hence the quality of the electron-density maps, further extending the limits of molecular replacement.
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