A new algorithm is developed for reconstructing the high-resolution three-dimensional diffraction intensity function of a globular biological macromolecule from many quantum-noise-limited two-dimensional X-ray laser diffraction patterns, each for an unknown orientation. The structural resolution is expressed as a function of the incident X-ray intensity and quantities characterizing the target molecule.
A new two-step algorithm is developed for reconstructing the three-dimensional diffraction intensity of a globular biological macromolecule from many experimentally measured quantum-noise-limited two-dimensional X-ray laser diffraction patterns, each for an unknown orientation. The first step is classification of the two-dimensional patterns into groups according to the similarity of direction of the incident X-rays with respect to the molecule and an averaging within each group to reduce the noise. The second step is detection of common intersecting circles between the signal-enhanced two-dimensional patterns to identify their mutual location in the three-dimensional wavenumber space. The newly developed algorithm enables one to detect a signal for classification in noisy experimental photon-count data with as low as ∼0.1 photons per effective pixel. The wavenumber of such a limiting pixel determines the attainable structural resolution. From this fact, the resolution limit due to the quantum noise attainable by this new method of analysis as well as two important experimental parameters, the number of two-dimensional patterns to be measured (the load for the detector) and the number of pairs of two-dimensional patterns to be analysed (the load for the computer), are derived as a function of the incident X-ray intensity and quantities characterizing the target molecule.