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The estimation of the bulk-solvent contribution to the diffraction of a macromolecular crystal makes use of a solvent mask which delimits the bulk-solvent regions in the crystal. It is shown that the way this mask is usually defined in CNS contains a bias which can lead to absurd results in the case of very large structures, where the calculations can only be made on relatively coarse grids. A modified procedure is described and applied to 70S ribosome data at 5.5 Å resolution. The B factor affecting the bulk solvent is also discussed. Even in this case of very high and widely variable atomic B factors, it seems sufficient to consider a constant and isotropic B factor for the bulk solvent. This is initially set to the average value of the atomic B factor, but can be refined.

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