An acoustic high-throughput screening method is described for harvesting protein crystals and combining the protein crystals with chemicals such as a fragment library.
Acoustic droplet ejection (ADE) is an emerging technology with broad applications in serial crystallography such as growing, improving and manipulating protein crystals. One application of this technology is to gently transfer crystals onto MiTeGen micromeshes with minimal solvent. Once mounted on a micromesh, each crystal can be combined with different chemicals such as crystal-improving additives or a fragment library. Acoustic crystal mounting is fast (2.33 transfers s−1) and all transfers occur in a sealed environment that is in vapor equilibrium with the mother liquor. Here, a system is presented to retain crystals near the ejection point and away from the inaccessible dead volume at the bottom of the well by placing the crystals on a concave agarose pedestal (CAP) with the same chemical composition as the crystal mother liquor. The bowl-shaped CAP is impenetrable to crystals. Consequently, gravity will gently move the crystals into the optimal location for acoustic ejection. It is demonstrated that an agarose pedestal of this type is compatible with most commercially available crystallization conditions and that protein crystals are readily transferred from the agarose pedestal onto micromeshes with no loss in diffraction quality. It is also shown that crystals can be grown directly on CAPs, which avoids the need to transfer the crystals from the hanging drop to a CAP. This technology has been used to combine thermolysin and lysozyme crystals with an assortment of anomalously scattering heavy atoms. The results point towards a fast nanolitre method for crystal mounting and high-throughput screening.
macromolecular crystallography; acoustic droplet ejection; crystal mounting; drug discovery; chemical biology; high-throughput screening
A method is presented for screening fragment libraries using acoustic droplet ejection to co-crystallize proteins and chemicals directly on micromeshes with as little as 2.5 nl of each component. This method was used to identify previously unreported fragments that bind to lysozyme, thermolysin, and trypsin.
Acoustic droplet ejection (ADE) is a powerful technology that supports crystallographic applications such as growing, improving and manipulating protein crystals. A fragment-screening strategy is described that uses ADE to co-crystallize proteins with fragment libraries directly on MiTeGen MicroMeshes. Co-crystallization trials can be prepared rapidly and economically. The high speed of specimen preparation and the low consumption of fragment and protein allow the use of individual rather than pooled fragments. The Echo 550 liquid-handling instrument (Labcyte Inc., Sunnyvale, California, USA) generates droplets with accurate trajectories, which allows multiple co-crystallization experiments to be discretely positioned on a single data-collection micromesh. This accuracy also allows all components to be transferred through small apertures. Consequently, the crystallization tray is in equilibrium with the reservoir before, during and after the transfer of protein, precipitant and fragment to the micromesh on which crystallization will occur. This strict control of the specimen environment means that the crystallography experiments remain identical as the working volumes are decreased from the few microlitres level to the few nanolitres level. Using this system, lysozyme, thermolysin, trypsin and stachydrine demethylase crystals were co-crystallized with a small 33-compound mini-library to search for fragment hits. This technology pushes towards a much faster, more automated and more flexible strategy for structure-based drug discovery using as little as 2.5 nl of each major component.
in situ X-ray data collection; acoustic droplet ejection; fragment screening; drug discovery; chemical biology; protein crystallization; synchrotron radiation
This article describes the use of evaporation control lids that are fitted to crystallization plates to improve the reproducibility of trials using as little as 5 nl. The plate lids contain apertures which are large enough for the transfer of protein containing droplets, but small enough to greatly reduce the rate of evaporation during the time needed to prepare the plate.
A method is described for using plate lids to reduce evaporation in low-volume vapor-diffusion crystallization experiments. The plate lids contain apertures through which the protein and precipitants were added to different crystallization microplates (the reservoir was filled before fitting the lids). Plate lids were designed for each of these commonly used crystallization microplates. This system minimizes the dehydration of crystallization droplets containing just a few nanolitres of protein and precipitant, and results in more reproducible diffraction from the crystals. For each lid design, changes in the weight of the plates were used to deduce the rate of evaporation under different conditions of temperature, air movement, droplet size and precipitant. For comparison, the state of dehydration was also visually assessed throughout the experiment. Finally, X-ray diffraction methods were used to compare the diffraction of protein crystals that were conventionally prepared against those that were prepared on plates with plate lids. The measurements revealed that the plate lids reduced the rate of evaporation by 63–82%. Crystals grown in 5 nl drops that were set up with plate lids diffracted to higher resolution than similar crystals from drops that were set up without plate lids. The results demonstrate that plate lids can be instrumental for improving few-nanolitre crystallizations.
crystallization; dehydration; vapor diffusion; high-throughput screening; acoustic droplet ejection; in situ X-ray data collection
An emulsion-based serial crystallographic technology has been developed, in which single crystals are grown in nanolitre-sized droplets inside an X-ray semi-transparent microfluidic chip exploiting a negative feedback mechanism. Diffraction data are measured, one crystal at a time, from a series of room-temperature crystals stored in the chip, and a 93% complete data set is obtained by merging single diffraction frames taken from different unoriented crystals to solve the structure of glucose isomerase to 2.1 Å.
An emulsion-based serial crystallographic technology has been developed, in which nanolitre-sized droplets of protein solution are encapsulated in oil and stabilized by surfactant. Once the first crystal in a drop is nucleated, the small volume generates a negative feedback mechanism that lowers the supersaturation. This mechanism is exploited to produce one crystal per drop. Diffraction data are measured, one crystal at a time, from a series of room-temperature crystals stored on an X-ray semi-transparent microfluidic chip, and a 93% complete data set is obtained by merging single diffraction frames taken from different unoriented crystals. As proof of concept, the structure of glucose isomerase was solved to 2.1 Å, demonstrating the feasibility of high-throughput serial X-ray crystallography using synchrotron radiation.
protein crystallization; X-ray diffraction; serial crystallography; microfluidic devices
The Microcapillary Protein Crystallization System (MPCS) is used to successfully optimize protein crystals from 28 out of 29 tested proteins. Six protein structures have been determined from diffraction-ready crystals grown inside and harvested directly from the MPCS CrystalCards, which are compatible with the recently commercialized and automated MPCS Plug Maker instrument.
The Microcapillary Protein Crystallization System (MPCS) is a microfluidic, plug-based crystallization technology that generates X-ray diffraction-ready protein crystals in nanolitre volumes. In this study, 28 out of 29 (93%) proteins crystallized by traditional vapor diffusion experiments were successfully crystallized by chemical gradient optimization experiments using the MPCS technology. In total, 90 out of 120 (75%) protein/precipitant combinations leading to initial crystal hits from vapor diffusion experiments were successfully crystallized using MPCS technology. Many of the resulting crystals produced high-quality X-ray diffraction data, and six novel protein structures that were derived from crystals harvested from MPCS CrystalCards are reported.
protein crystals; microfluids; plugs; genomics
The Microcapillary Protein Crystallization System (MPCS) is a new protein-crystallization technology used to generate nanolitre-sized crystallization experiments for crystal screening and optimization. Using the MPCS, diffraction-ready crystals were grown in the plastic MPCS CrystalCard and were used to solve the structure of methionine-R-sulfoxide reductase.
The Microcapillary Protein Crystallization System (MPCS) embodies a new semi-automated plug-based crystallization technology which enables nanolitre-volume screening of crystallization conditions in a plasticware format that allows crystals to be easily removed for traditional cryoprotection and X-ray diffraction data collection. Protein crystals grown in these plastic devices can be directly subjected to in situ X-ray diffraction studies. The MPCS integrates the formulation of crystallization cocktails with the preparation of the crystallization experiments. Within microfluidic Teflon tubing or the microfluidic circuitry of a plastic CrystalCard, ∼10–20 nl volume droplets are generated, each representing a microbatch-style crystallization experiment with a different chemical composition. The entire protein sample is utilized in crystallization experiments. Sparse-matrix screening and chemical gradient screening can be combined in one comprehensive ‘hybrid’ crystallization trial. The technology lends itself well to optimization by high-granularity gradient screening using optimization reagents such as precipitation agents, ligands or cryoprotectants.
protein crystallization; Microcapillary Protein Crystallization System
The X-CHIP (X-ray Crystallography High-throughput Integrated Platform) is a novel microchip that has been developed to combine multiple steps of the crystallographic pipeline from crystallization to diffraction data collection on a single device to streamline the entire process.
The X-CHIP (X-ray Crystallization High-throughput Integrated Platform) is a novel microchip that has been developed to combine multiple steps of the crystallographic pipeline from crystallization to diffraction data collection on a single device to streamline the entire process. The system has been designed for crystallization condition screening, visual crystal inspection, initial X-ray screening and data collection in a high-throughput fashion. X-ray diffraction data acquisition can be performed directly on-the-chip at room temperature using an in situ approach. The capabilities of the chip eliminate the necessity for manual crystal handling and cryoprotection of crystal samples, while allowing data collection from multiple crystals in the same drop. This technology would be especially beneficial for projects with large volumes of data, such as protein-complex studies and fragment-based screening. The platform employs hydrophilic and hydrophobic concentric ring surfaces on a miniature plate transparent to visible light and X-rays to create a well defined and stable microbatch crystallization environment. The results of crystallization and data-collection experiments demonstrate that high-quality well diffracting crystals can be grown and high-resolution diffraction data sets can be collected using this technology. Furthermore, the quality of a single-wavelength anomalous dispersion data set collected with the X-CHIP at room temperature was sufficient to generate interpretable electron-density maps. This technology is highly resource-efficient owing to the use of nanolitre-scale drop volumes. It does not require any modification for most in-house and synchrotron beamline systems and offers a promising opportunity for full automation of the X-ray structure-determination process.
protein crystallization devices; in situ X-ray analysis; crystallization; crystal visual inspection; diffraction data collection
Precipitation phase diagrams can be rapidly constructed using dispensing-robot technology. These diagrams provide information that assists in optimization of crystal growth.
The growth of suitably sized protein crystals is essential for protein structure determination by X-ray crystallography. In general, crystals are grown using a trial-and-error method. However, these methods have been modified with the advent of microlitre dispensing-robot technology and of protocols that rapidly screen for crystal nucleation conditions. The use of one such automatic dispenser for mixing protein drops (1.3–2.0 µl in volume) of known concentration and pH with precipitating solutions (ejecting 2.0 µl droplets) containing salt is described here. The results of the experiments are relevant to a crystallization approach based on a two-step procedure: screening for the crystal nucleation step employing robotics followed by optimization of the crystallization conditions using incomplete factorial experimental design. Large crystals have successfully been obtained using quantities as small as 3.52 mg protein.
dye-decolorizing peroxidase; automatic dispensers; precipitation diagrams; microlitre crystallization; crystal improvement; diffraction data
The crystallization-phase-diagram-guided method is effective for growing large protein crystals for neutron protein crystallography.
Neutron protein crystallography (NPC) is a powerful tool for determining the hydrogen position and water orientation in proteins, but a much larger protein crystal is needed for NPC than for X-ray crystallography, and thus crystal preparation is a bottleneck. To obtain large protein crystals, it is necessary to know the properties of the target protein in the crystallization solution. Here, a crystal preparation method of fungal cellulase PcCel45A is reported, guided by the phase diagram. Nucleation and precipitation conditions were determined by sitting-drop vapor diffusion. Saturation and unsaturation conditions were evaluated by monitoring crystal dissolution, and a crystallization phase diagram was obtained. To obtain a large crystal, crystallization solution was prepared on a sitting bridge (diameter = 5 mm). Initial crystallization conditions were 40 µl of crystallization solution (40 mg ml−1 protein with 30.5% 3-methyl-1,5-pentanediol in 50 mM tris-HCl pH 8.0) with a 1000 µl reservoir (61% 3-methyl-1,5,-pentanediol in 50 mM tris-HCl pH 8.0) at 293 K. After the first crystal appeared, the concentration of precipitant in the reservoir solution was reduced to 60% to prevent formation of further crystals. Finally, we obtained a crystal of 6 mm3 volume (3 mm × 2 mm × 1 mm), which was suitable for neutron diffraction.
cellulase; neutron protein crystallography; crystallization phase diagram
A method for growing crystals on cryoloops or micromounts is described, and diffraction patterns of crystals of three proteins grown by both the new method and the conventional drop method are compared. The study investigates the steps for the automation of the crystal growth and manipulation process and describes the design of a tray for the method.
Protein crystals are usually grown in hanging or sitting drops and generally get transferred to a loop or micromount for cryocooling and data collection. This paper describes a method for growing crystals on cryoloops for easier manipulation of the crystals for data collection. This study also investigates the steps for the automation of this process and describes the design of a new tray for the method. The diffraction patterns and the structures of three proteins grown by both the new method and the conventional hanging-drop method are compared. The new setup is optimized for the automation of the crystal mounting process. Researchers could prepare nanolitre drops under ordinary laboratory conditions by growing the crystals directly in loops or micromounts. As has been pointed out before, higher levels of supersaturation can be obtained in very small volumes, and the new method may help in the exploration of additional crystallization conditions.
protein crystallography; automation; crystal growth; cryoloops; micromounts
This paper reports a method for the production of arrays of nanolitre plugs with distinct chemical compositions. One of the primary constraints on the use of plug-based microfluidics for large scale biological screening is the difficulty of fabricating arrays of chemically distinct plugs on the nanolitre scale. Here, using microfluidic devices with several T-junctions linked in series, a single input array of large (~320 nL) plugs was split to produce 16 output arrays of smaller (~20 nL) plugs; the composition and configuration of these arrays were identical to that of the input. This paper shows how the passive break-up of plugs in T-junction microchannel geometries can be used to produce a set of smaller-volume output arrays useful for chemical screening from a single large-volume array. A simple theoretical description is presented to describe splitting as a function of the Capillary number, the capillary pressure, the total pressure difference across the channel, and the geometric fluidic resistance. By accounting for these considerations, plug coalescence and plug–plug contamination can be eliminated from the splitting process and the symmetry of splitting can be preserved. Furthermore, single-outlet splitting devices were implemented with both valve- and volume-based methods for coordinating the release of output arrays. Arrays of plugs containing commercial sparse matrix screens were obtained from the presented splitting method and these arrays were used in protein crystallization trials. The techniques presented in this paper may facilitate the implementation of high-throughput chemical and biological screening.
Cocrystallization with a peptide, free-interface diffusion crystal chips and crystal dehydration were important in the production of diffraction-quality crystals of the Munc18c protein that helps to regulate membrane fusion.
The production of diffraction-quality crystals of Munc18c, a protein involved in regulating vesicular exocytosis in mammals, is reported. The diffraction resolution of Munc18c crystals was optimized by (i) cocrystallizing with a peptide fragment of the Munc18c functional binding partner syntaxin4, (ii) using nanolitre free-interface diffusion crystallization-screening chips and microlitre hanging-drop vapour diffusion and (iii) applying a post-crystallization dehydration treatment. Crystals belonging to the cubic space group P213, with unit-cell parameters a = b = c = 170.8 Å, α = β = γ = 90°, were generated that diffract to 3.7 Å resolution on a laboratory X-ray source.
Munc18c; syntaxin4; free-interface diffusion; dehydration
A procedure for microseeding into nanolitre crystallization drops is described with selected successful examples.
A simple semi-automated microseeding procedure for nanolitre crystallization experiments is described. Firstly, a microseed stock solution is made from microcrystals using a Teflon bead. A dilution series of this microseed stock is then prepared and dispensed as 100 nl droplets into 96-well crystallization plates, facilitating the incorporation of seeding into high-throughput crystallization pipelines. This basic microseeding procedure has been modified to include additive-screening and cross-seeding methods. Five examples in which these techniques have been used successfully are described.
crystallization; crystal optimization; microseeding; additives
A marine diatom-infecting virus was crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method. The crystals belonged to space group P6322, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 448.67, c = 309.76 Å, and diffracted to 4.0 Å resolution.
Crystals of a diatom-infecting virus (CtenRNAV) that diffracted to a resolution of 4.0 Å were grown in a mixture of 2-methyl-2,4-pentanediol (MPD), calcium chloride and sodium acetate. It was possible to freeze the crystals directly at liquid-nitrogen temperature as the reservoir solution, which included about 30% MPD, acted as a cryoprotectant during X-ray diffraction data collection. A data set was collected from a single frozen crystal obtained using this method. The crystals belonged to space group P6322, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 448.67, c = 309.76 Å and two virus particles in the unit cell. The virus-particle orientation was determined using a rotation function and the virus-particle centre was estimated on the basis of crystallographic considerations. The packing of CtenRNAV in the crystal lattice was revealed by this preliminary crystallographic study.
CtenRNAV; diatom-infecting virus
A major advance in protein structure determination has been the advent of nanolitre-scale crystallization and (in a high-throughput environment) the development of robotic systems for storing and imaging crystallization trials. Most of these trials are carried out in 96-well (or higher density) plates and managing them is a significant information management challenge. We describe xtalPiMS, a web-based application for the management and monitoring of crystallization trials. xtalPiMS has a user-interface layer based on the standards of the Protein Information Management System (PiMS) and a database layer which links the crystallization trial images to the meta-data associated with a particular crystallization trial. The user interface has been optimized for the efficient monitoring of high-throughput environments with three different automated imagers and work to support a fourth imager is in progress, but it can even be of use without robotics. The database can either be a PiMS database or a legacy database for which a suitable mapping layer has been developed.
Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS); Protein crystallization; Robotic imagers; Java web application; Data management and databases
Electron microscopy of two-dimensional (2D) crystals has demonstrated potential for structure determination of membrane proteins. Technical limitations in large-scale crystallization screens have, however, prevented a major breakthrough in the routine application of this technology. Dialysis is generally used for detergent removal and reconstitution of the protein into a lipid bilayer, and devices for testing numerous conditions in parallel are not readily available. Furthermore, the small size of resulting 2D crystals requires electron microscopy to evaluate the results and automation of the necessary steps is essential to achieve a reasonable throughput. We have designed a crystallization block, using standard microplate dimensions, by which 96 unique samples can be dialyzed simultaneously against 96 different buffers and have demonstrated that the rate of detergent dialysis is comparable to those obtained with conventional dialysis devices. A liquid-handling robot was employed to set up 2D crystallization trials with the membrane proteins CopA from Archaeoglobus fulgidus and light-harvesting complex II (LH2) from Rhodobacter sphaeroides. For CopA, 1-week of dialysis yielded tubular crystals and, for LH2, large and well-ordered vesicular 2D crystals were obtained after 24-hours, illustrating the feasibility of this approach. Combined with a high-throughput procedure for preparation of EM-grids and automation of the subsequent negative staining step, the crystallization block offers a novel pipeline that promises to speed up considerably large-scale screening of 2D crystallization and to increase the likelihood of producing well-ordered crystals for analysis by electron crystallography.
Two-dimensional (2D) crystals; membrane proteins; electron crystallography; high-throughput screening; membrane protein reconstitution; negative staining; 96-well format; crystallization block; dialysis block
Rapid and precise patterning of functional biomaterials is desirable for point-of-care (POC) tissue engineering and diagnostics. However, existing technologies such as dip-pen nanolithography and inkjet printing are currently unsuitable for POC applications due to issues of cost and portability. Here, we report the development of ‘BioPen', a portable tool for continuous, defined and scalable deposition of functional materials with micrometer spatial resolution and nanolitre volumetric resolution. BioPen is based upon the ballpoint pen but with multiple “ink sources” (functional material solutions) and with an apparatus that can be optimized for writing living cells, proteins, nucleic acids, etc. We demonstrate POC detection of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) nucleic acid by writing on paper with BioPen using “ink” consisting of nucleic acid probes and nucleic acid-modified gold nanoparticles. We also demonstrate POC tissue engineering by writing a continuous pattern of living, functional, interconnected cells with a defined extracellular environment. Because it is simple, accurate, inexpensive and portable, BioPen has broad potential for POC detection of diagnostic biomarkers, and for POC engineering of tissues for a range of healing applications.
Vapor diffusion is the most widely used technique for protein crystallization and the rate of water evaporation plays a key role on the quality of the crystals. Attempts have been made in the past to solve the mass transfer problem governing the evaporation process, either analytically or by employing numerical methods. Despite these efforts, the methods used for protein crystallization remain based on trial and error techniques rather than on fundamental principles.
Here we present a new theoretical model which describes the hanging drop method as a function of the different variables that are known to influence the evaporation process. The model is extensively tested against experimental data published by other authors and considering different crystallizing conditions. Aspects responsible for the discrepancies between the existing theories and the measured evaporation kinetics are especially discussed; they include the characterization of vapor-liquid equilibrium, the role of mass transfer within the evaporating droplet, and the influence of the droplet-reservoir distance.
The validation tests show that the proposed model can be used to predict the water evaporation rates under a wide range of experimental conditions used in the hanging drop vapor-diffusion method, with no parameter fitting or computational requirements. This model combined with protein solubility data is expected to become a useful tool for a priori screening of crystallization conditions.
This paper describes a microfluidic approach to perform multiplexed nanoliter-scale experiments by combining a sample with multiple different reagents, each at multiple mixing ratios. This approach employs a user-loaded, equipment-free SlipChip. The mixing ratios, characterized by diluting a fluorescent dye, could be controlled by the volume of each of the combined wells. The SlipChip design was validated on ~12 nL scale by screening the conditions for crystallization of glutaryl-CoA dehydrogenase from Burkholderia pseudomallei against 48 different reagents; each reagent was tested at 11 different mixing ratios, for a total of 528 crystallization trials. The total consumption of the protein sample was ~ 10 μL. Conditions for crystallization were successfully identified. The crystallization experiments were successfully scaled up in well plates using the conditions identified in the SlipChip. Crystals were characterized by X-ray diffraction and provided a protein structure in a different space group and at a higher resolution than the structure obtained by conventional methods. In this work, this user-loaded SlipChip has been shown to handle reliably fluids of diverse physicochemical properties, such as viscosities and surface tensions. Quantitative measurements of fluorescent intensities and high-resolution imaging were straighforward to perform in these glass SlipChips. Surface chemistry was controlled using fluorinated lubricating fluid, analogous to the fluorinated carrier fluid used in plug-based crystallization. Thus, we expect this approach to be valuable in a number of areas beyond protein crystallization, especially those areas where droplet-based microfluidic systems have demonstrated successes, including measurements of enzyme kinetics and blood coagulation, cell-based assays, and chemical reactions.
Gene silencing using RNA interference (RNAi) has become a prominent biological tool for gene annotation, pathway analysis, and target discovery in mammalian cells. High-throughput screens conducted using whole-genome siRNA libraries have uncovered rich sets of new genes involved in a variety of biological processes and cellular models of disease. However, high-throughput RNAi screening is not yet a mainstream tool in life science research because current screening platforms are expensive and onerous. Miniaturizing the RNAi screening platform to reduce cost and increase throughput will enable its widespread use and harness its potential for rapid genome annotation. With this aim, we have combined semi-conductor microfabrication and nanolitre dispensing techniques to develop miniaturized electroporation-ready microwell arrays loaded with siRNA molecules in which multiplexed gene knockdown can be achieved. Arrays of microwells are created using high-aspect ratio biocompatible photoresists on optically transparent and conductive Indium-Tin Oxide (ITO) substrates with integrated micro-electrodes to enable in situ electroporation. Non-contact inkjet microarraying allows precise dispensing of nanolitre volumes into the microwell structures. We have achieved parallel electroporation of multiple mammalian cells cultured in these microwell arrays and observed efficient knockdown of genes with surface-bound, printed siRNAs. Further integration of microfabrication and non-contact nanolitre dispensing techniques described here may enable single-substrate whole-genome siRNA screening in mammalian cells.
In the assembly of microarrays and microarray-based chemical assays and enzymatic bioassays, most approaches use pins for contact spotting. Acoustic dispensing is a technology capable of nanoliter transfers by using acoustic energy to eject liquid sample from an open source well. Although typically used for well plate transfers, when applied to microarraying it avoids drawbacks of undesired physical contact with sample, difficulty in assembling multicomponent reactions on a chip by readdressing, a rigid mode of printing that lacks patterning capabilities, and time-consuming wash steps. We demonstrated the utility of acoustic dispensing by delivering human cathepsin L in a drop-on-drop fashion into individual 50-nanoliter, pre-spotted reaction volumes to activate enzyme reactions at targeted positions on a microarray. We generated variable-sized spots ranging from 200 to 750 μm (and higher), and handled the transfer of fluorescent bead suspensions with increasing source well concentrations of 0.1 to 10 ×108 beads/mL in a linear fashion. There are no tips that can clog and liquid dispensing CVs are generally below 5%. This platform expands the toolbox for generating analytical arrays and meets needs associated with spatially-addressed assembly of multicomponent microarrays on the nanoliter scale.
Microarray; acoustic dispensing; pin spotting; no-contact dispensing; assay development; lab on a chip; screening
Three crystallization methods, including crystallization in the presence of a semi-solid agarose gel, top-seeded solution growth (TSSG) and a large-scale hanging-drop method, have previously been presented. In this study, crystallization has been further evaluated in the presence of a semi-solid agarose gel by crystallizing additional proteins. A novel crystallization method combining TSSG and the large-scale hanging-drop method has also been developed.
Three crystallization methods for growing large high-quality protein crystals, i.e. crystallization in the presence of a semi-solid agarose gel, top-seeded solution growth (TSSG) and a large-scale hanging-drop method, have previously been presented. In this study the effectiveness of crystallization in the presence of a semi-solid agarose gel has been further evaluated by crystallizing additional proteins in the presence of 2.0% (w/v) agarose gel, resulting in complete gelification with high mechanical strength. In TSSG the seed crystals are hung by a seed holder protruding from the top of the growth vessel to prevent polycrystallization. In the large-scale hanging-drop method, a cut pipette tip was used to maintain large-scale droplets consisting of protein–precipitant solution. Here a novel crystallization method that combines TSSG and the large-scale hanging-drop method is reported. A large and single crystal of lysozyme was obtained by this method.
semi-solid agarose gels; top-seeded solution growth; large-scale hanging-drop method; X-ray crystallography; neutron crystallography
As technology advances, the crystal volume that can be used to collect useful X-ray diffraction data decreases. The technologies available to detect and study growing crystals beyond the optical resolution limit and methods to successfully place the crystal into the X-ray beam are discussed.
Structural biology has contributed tremendous knowledge to the understanding of life on the molecular scale. The Protein Data Bank, a depository of this structural knowledge, currently contains over 100 000 protein structures, with the majority stemming from X-ray crystallography. As the name might suggest, crystallography requires crystals. As detectors become more sensitive and X-ray sources more intense, the notion of a crystal is gradually changing from one large enough to embellish expensive jewellery to objects that have external dimensions of the order of the wavelength of visible light. Identifying these crystals is a prerequisite to their study. This paper discusses developments in identifying these crystals during crystallization screening and distinguishing them from other potential outcomes. The practical aspects of ensuring that once a crystal is identified it can then be positioned in the X-ray beam for data collection are also addressed.
crystal detection; crystal growth; crystal positioning
An optically, UV and X-ray transparent crystallization plate suitable for in situ analysis has been developed. The plate uses contact line pinning rather than wells to confine the liquids.
X-ray transparent crystallization plates based upon a novel drop-pinning technology provide a flexible, simple and inexpensive approach to protein crystallization and screening. The plates consist of open cells sealed top and bottom by thin optically, UV and X-ray transparent films. The plates do not need wells or depressions to contain liquids. Instead, protein drops and reservoir solution are held in place by rings with micrometre dimensions that are patterned onto the bottom film. These rings strongly pin the liquid contact lines, thereby improving drop shape and position uniformity, and thus crystallization reproducibility, and simplifying automated image analysis of drop contents. The same rings effectively pin solutions containing salts, proteins, cryoprotectants, oils, alcohols and detergents. Strong pinning by rings allows the plates to be rotated without liquid mixing to 90° for X-ray data collection or to be inverted for hanging-drop crystallization. The plates have the standard SBS format and are compatible with standard liquid-handling robots.
protein crystallization; crystallization plates; drop pinning; high-throughput screening
The crystallization of the six-subunit Na+-NQR complex from V. cholerae is reported.
The Na+-translocating NADH:quinone oxidoreductase (Na+-NQR) from the human pathogen Vibrio cholerae couples the exergonic oxidation of NADH by membrane-bound quinone to Na+ translocation across the membrane. Na+-NQR consists of six different subunits (NqrA–NqrF) and contains a [2Fe–2S] cluster, a noncovalently bound FAD, a noncovalently bound riboflavin, two covalently bound FMNs and potentially Q8 as cofactors. Initial crystallization of the entire Na+-NQR complex was achieved by the sitting-drop method using a nanolitre dispenser. Optimization of the crystallization conditions yielded flat yellow-coloured crystals with dimensions of up to 200 × 80 × 20 µm. The crystals diffracted to 4.0 Å resolution and belonged to space group P21, with unit-cell parameters a = 94, b = 146, c = 105 Å, α = γ = 90, β = 111°.
Na+-translocating NADH:quinone oxidoreductase; Na+-NQR; Vibrio cholerae; membrane-protein complexes