MxCuBE is a beamline control environment optimized for the needs of macromolecular crystallography. This paper describes the design of the software and the features that MxCuBE currently provides.
The design and features of a beamline control software system for macromolecular crystallography (MX) experiments developed at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) are described. This system, MxCuBE, allows users to easily and simply interact with beamline hardware components and provides automated routines for common tasks in the operation of a synchrotron beamline dedicated to experiments in MX. Additional functionality is provided through intuitive interfaces that enable the assessment of the diffraction characteristics of samples, experiment planning, automatic data collection and the on-line collection and analysis of X-ray emission spectra. The software can be run in a tandem client-server mode that allows for remote control and relevant experimental parameters and results are automatically logged in a relational database, ISPyB. MxCuBE is modular, flexible and extensible and is currently deployed on eight macromolecular crystallography beamlines at the ESRF. Additionally, the software is installed at MAX-lab beamline I911-3 and at BESSY beamline BL14.1.
automation; macromolecular crystallography; synchrotron beamline control; graphical user interface
New software has been developed for automating the experimental and data-processing stages of fragment-based drug discovery at a macromolecular crystallography beamline. A new workflow-automation framework orchestrates beamline-control and data-analysis software while organizing results from multiple samples.
AutoDrug is software based upon the scientific workflow paradigm that integrates the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource macromolecular crystallography beamlines and third-party processing software to automate the crystallography steps of the fragment-based drug-discovery process. AutoDrug screens a cassette of fragment-soaked crystals, selects crystals for data collection based on screening results and user-specified criteria and determines optimal data-collection strategies. It then collects and processes diffraction data, performs molecular replacement using provided models and detects electron density that is likely to arise from bound fragments. All processes are fully automated, i.e. are performed without user interaction or supervision. Samples can be screened in groups corresponding to particular proteins, crystal forms and/or soaking conditions. A single AutoDrug run is only limited by the capacity of the sample-storage dewar at the beamline: currently 288 samples. AutoDrug was developed in conjunction with RestFlow, a new scientific workflow-automation framework. RestFlow simplifies the design of AutoDrug by managing the flow of data and the organization of results and by orchestrating the execution of computational pipeline steps. It also simplifies the execution and interaction of third-party programs and the beamline-control system. Modeling AutoDrug as a scientific workflow enables multiple variants that meet the requirements of different user groups to be developed and supported. A workflow tailored to mimic the crystallography stages comprising the drug-discovery pipeline of CoCrystal Discovery Inc. has been deployed and successfully demonstrated. This workflow was run once on the same 96 samples that the group had examined manually and the workflow cycled successfully through all of the samples, collected data from the same samples that were selected manually and located the same peaks of unmodeled density in the resulting difference Fourier maps.
AutoDrug; fragment-based drug discovery; workflow automation
Hardware and software solutions for MX data-collection strategies using the EMBL/ESRF miniaturized multi-axis goniometer head are presented.
Most macromolecular crystallography (MX) diffraction experiments at synchrotrons use a single-axis goniometer. This markedly contrasts with small-molecule crystallography, in which the majority of the diffraction data are collected using multi-axis goniometers. A novel miniaturized κ-goniometer head, the MK3, has been developed to allow macromolecular crystals to be aligned. It is available on the majority of the structural biology beamlines at the ESRF, as well as elsewhere. In addition, the Strategy for the Alignment of Crystals (STAC) software package has been developed to facilitate the use of the MK3 and other similar devices. Use of the MK3 and STAC is streamlined by their incorporation into online analysis tools such as EDNA. The current use of STAC and MK3 on the MX beamlines at the ESRF is discussed. It is shown that the alignment of macromolecular crystals can result in improved diffraction data quality compared with data obtained from randomly aligned crystals.
kappa goniometer; crystal alignment; data-collection strategies
The key features of the functionality facilitating proprietary use of the ESRF’s structural biology beamlines are described, as are the major advantages, in terms of beamline evolution, of the interaction of the ESRF with the pharmaceutical industry.
The ESRF has worked with, and provided services for, the pharmaceutical industry since the construction of its first protein crystallography beamline in the mid-1990s. In more recent times, industrial clients have benefited from a portfolio of beamlines which offer a wide range of functionality and beam characteristics, including tunability, microfocus and micro-aperture. Included in this portfolio is a small-angle X-ray scattering beamline dedicated to the study of biological molecules in solution. The high demands on throughput and efficiency made by the ESRF’s industrial clients have been a major driving force in the evolution of the ESRF’s macromolecular crystallography resources, which now include remote access, the automation of crystal screening and data collection, and a beamline database allowing sample tracking, experiment reporting and real-time at-a-distance monitoring of experiments. This paper describes the key features of the functionality put in place on the ESRF structural biology beamlines and outlines the major advantages of the interaction of the ESRF with the pharmaceutical industry.
synchrotron MX beamlines; proprietary access; service data collection; automation
A system for the automatic reduction of single- and multi-position macromolecular crystallography data is presented.
The development of automated high-intensity macromolecular crystallography (MX) beamlines at synchrotron facilities has resulted in a remarkable increase in sample throughput. Developments in X-ray detector technology now mean that complete X-ray diffraction datasets can be collected in less than one minute. Such high-speed collection, and the volumes of data that it produces, often make it difficult for even the most experienced users to cope with the deluge. However, the careful reduction of data during experimental sessions is often necessary for the success of a particular project or as an aid in decision making for subsequent experiments. Automated data reduction pipelines provide a fast and reliable alternative to user-initiated processing at the beamline. In order to provide such a pipeline for the MX user community of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), a system for the rapid automatic processing of MX diffraction data from single and multiple positions on a single or multiple crystals has been developed. Standard integration and data analysis programs have been incorporated into the ESRF data collection, storage and computing environment, with the final results stored and displayed in an intuitive manner in the ISPyB (information system for protein crystallography beamlines) database, from which they are also available for download. In some cases, experimental phase information can be automatically determined from the processed data. Here, the system is described in detail.
automation; data processing; macromolecular crystallography; computer programs
Beamline ID23-2, the first dedicated and highly automated high-throughput monochromatic macromolecular crystallography microfocus beamline, is described.
The first phase of the ESRF beamline ID23 to be constructed was ID23-1, a tunable MAD-capable beamline which opened to users in early 2004. The second phase of the beamline to be constructed is ID23-2, a monochromatic microfocus beamline dedicated to macromolecular crystallography experiments. Beamline ID23-2 makes use of well characterized optical elements: a single-bounce silicon (111) monochromator and two mirrors in Kirkpatrick–Baez geometry to focus the X-ray beam. A major design goal of the ID23-2 beamline is to provide a reliable, easy-to-use and routine microfocus beam. ID23-2 started operation in November 2005, as the first beamline dedicated to microfocus macromolecular crystallography. The beamline has taken the standard automated ESRF macromolecular crystallography environment (both hardware and software), allowing users of ID23-2 to be rapidly familiar with the microfocus environment. This paper describes the beamline design, the special considerations taken into account given the microfocus beam, and summarizes the results of the first years of the beamline operation.
macromolecular crystallography; automation; microfocus
The ultimate goal of synchrotron data collection is to obtain the best possible data from the best available crystals, and the combination of automation and remote access at Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) has revolutionized the way in which scientists achieve this goal. This has also seen a change in the way novice crystallographers are trained in the use of the beamlines, and a wide range of remote tools and hands-on workshops are now offered by SSRL to facilitate the education of the next generation of protein crystallographers.
For the past five years, the Structural Molecular Biology group at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) has provided general users of the facility with fully remote access to the macromolecular crystallography beamlines. This was made possible by implementing fully automated beamlines with a flexible control system and an intuitive user interface, and by the development of the robust and efficient Stanford automated mounting robotic sample-changing system. The ability to control a synchrotron beamline remotely from the comfort of the home laboratory has set a new paradigm for the collection of high-quality X-ray diffraction data and has fostered new collaborative research, whereby a number of remote users from different institutions can be connected at the same time to the SSRL beamlines. The use of remote access has revolutionized the way in which scientists interact with synchrotron beamlines and collect diffraction data, and has also triggered a shift in the way crystallography students are introduced to synchrotron data collection and trained in the best methods for collecting high-quality data. SSRL provides expert crystallographic and engineering staff, state-of-the-art crystallography beamlines, and a number of accessible tools to facilitate data collection and in-house remote training, and encourages the use of these facilities for education, training, outreach and collaborative research.
protein crystallography; high-throughput screening; robotics; remote access; crystallographic education and training; outreach
The design, performance and first results of the new macromolecular crystallography beamline BL13-XALOC at the ALBA Synchrotron are described, including new developments in optics and control.
BL13-XALOC is currently the only macromolecular crystallography beamline at the 3 GeV ALBA synchrotron near Barcelona, Spain. The optics design is based on an in-vacuum undulator, a Si(111) channel-cut crystal monochromator and a pair of KB mirrors. It allows three main operation modes: a focused configuration, where both mirrors can focus the beam at the sample position to 52 µm × 5.5 µm FWHM (H × V); a defocused configuration that can match the size of the beam to the dimensions of the crystals or to focus the beam at the detector; and an unfocused configuration, where one or both mirrors are removed from the photon beam path. To achieve a uniform defocused beam, the slope errors of the mirrors were reduced down to 55 nrad RMS by employing a novel method that has been developed at the ALBA high-accuracy metrology laboratory. Thorough commissioning with X-ray beam and user operation has demonstrated an excellent energy and spatial stability of the beamline. The end-station includes a high-accuracy single-axis diffractometer, a removable mini-kappa stage, an automated sample-mounting robot and a photon-counting detector that allows shutterless operation. The positioning tables of the diffractometer and the detector are based on a novel and highly stable design. This equipment, together with the operation flexibility of the beamline, allows a large variety of types of crystals to be tackled, from medium-sized crystals with large unit-cell parameters to microcrystals. Several examples of data collections measured during beamline commissioning are described. The beamline started user operation on 18 July 2012.
macromolecular crystallography; beamline; Alba; mirror slope errors
The SIBYLS beamline of the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is a dual endstation small-angle X-ray scattering and macromolecular crystallography beamline. Key features and capabilities are described along with implementation and performance.
The SIBYLS beamline (12.3.1) of the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, supported by the US Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, is optimized for both small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and macromolecular crystallography (MX), making it unique among the world’s mostly SAXS or MX dedicated beamlines. Since SIBYLS was commissioned, assessments of the limitations and advantages of a combined SAXS and MX beamline have suggested new strategies for integration and optimal data collection methods and have led to additional hardware and software enhancements. Features described include a dual mode monochromator [containing both Si(111) crystals and Mo/B4C multilayer elements], rapid beamline optics conversion between SAXS and MX modes, active beam stabilization, sample-loading robotics, and mail-in and remote data collection. These features allow users to gain valuable insights from both dynamic solution scattering and high-resolution atomic diffraction experiments performed at a single synchrotron beamline. Key practical issues considered for data collection and analysis include radiation damage, structural ensembles, alternative conformers and flexibility. SIBYLS develops and applies efficient combined MX and SAXS methods that deliver high-impact results by providing robust cost-effective routes to connect structures to biology and by performing experiments that aid beamline designs for next generation light sources.
small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS); macromolecular crystallography (MX); synchrotron beamlines; SIBYLS
The macromolecular crystallography experiment lends itself perfectly to high-throughput technologies. The initial steps including the expression, purification and crystallization of protein crystals, along with some of the later steps involving data processing and structure determination have all been automated to the point where some of the last remaining bottlenecks in the process have been crystal mounting, crystal screening and data collection. At the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), a National User Facility which provides extremely brilliant X-ray photon beams for use in materials science, environmental science and structural biology research, the incorporation of advanced robotics has enabled crystals to be screened in a true high-throughput fashion, thus dramatically accelerating the final steps. Up to 288 frozen crystals can be mounted by the beamline robot (the Stanford Automated Mounter, or SAM) and screened for diffraction quality in a matter of hours without intervention. The best quality crystals can then be remounted for the collection of complete X-ray diffraction data sets. Furthermore, the entire screening and data collection experiment can be controlled from the experimenter’s home laboratory by means of advanced software tools that enable network-based control of the highly automated beamlines.
protein crystallography; cryocrystallography; high-throughput screening; robotics; remote access
Optical trapping has successfully been applied to select and mount microcrystals for subsequent X-ray diffraction experiments.
X-ray crystallography is the method of choice to deduce atomic resolution structural information from macromolecules. In recent years, significant investments in structural genomics initiatives have been undertaken to automate all steps in X-ray crystallography from protein expression to structure solution. Robotic systems are widely used to prepare crystallization screens and change samples on synchrotron beamlines for macromolecular crystallography. The only remaining manual handling step is the transfer of the crystal from the mother liquor onto the crystal holder. Manual mounting is relatively straightforward for crystals with dimensions of >25 µm; however, this step is nontrivial for smaller crystals. The mounting of microcrystals is becoming increasingly important as advances in microfocus synchrotron beamlines now allow data collection from crystals with dimensions of only a few micrometres. To make optimal usage of these beamlines, new approaches have to be taken to facilitate and automate this last manual handling step. Optical tweezers, which are routinely used for the manipulation of micrometre-sized objects, have successfully been applied to sort and mount macromolecular crystals on newly designed crystal holders. Diffraction data from CPV type 1 polyhedrin microcrystals mounted with laser tweezers are presented.
laser tweezers; optical trapping; microcrystals; crystal manipulation; sample holders
A description of the new ESRF BioSAXS beamline is given. The beamline presented is dedicated to small-angle X-ray scattering of macromolecules in solution operating with a high-throughput sample-changer robot and automated data analysis for quality control and feedback.
Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) measurements of proteins in solution are becoming increasingly popular with biochemists and structural biologists owing to the presence of dedicated high-throughput beamlines at synchrotron sources. As part of the ESRF Upgrade program a dedicated instrument for performing SAXS from biological macromolecules in solution (BioSAXS) has been installed at the renovated BM29 location. The optics hutch has been equipped with new optical components of which the two principal elements are a fixed-exit double multilayer monochromator and a 1.1 m-long toroidal mirror. These new dedicated optics give improved beam characteristics (compared with the previous set-up on ID14-3) regarding the energy tunability, flux and focusing at the detector plane leading to reduced parasitic scattering and an extended s-range. User experiments on the beamline have been successfully carried out since June 2012. A description of the new BioSAXS beamline and the set-up characteristics are presented together with examples of obtained data.
small-angle X-ray scattering; proteins in solution; automation and high throughput; online HPLC; structural biology
Thoughts about the decisions made in designing macromolecular X-ray crystallography experiments at synchrotron beamlines are presented.
The measurement of X-ray diffraction data from macromolecular crystals for the purpose of structure determination is the convergence of two processes: the preparation of diffraction-quality crystal samples on the one hand and the construction and optimization of an X-ray beamline and end station on the other. Like sample preparation, a macromolecular crystallography beamline is geared to obtaining the best possible diffraction measurements from crystals provided by the synchrotron user. This paper describes the thoughts behind an experiment that fully exploits both the sample and the beamline and how these map into everyday decisions that users can and should make when visiting a beamline with their most precious crystals.
macromolecular crystallography; microcrystallography; X-ray beamlines; synchrotron radiation
At the Photon Factory macromolecular crystallography beamlines, two new functions, remote monitoring and diffraction image evaluation, have been developed and installed on the beamline controlling system STARS (simple transmission and retrieval system).
Owing to recent advances in high-throughput technology in macromolecular crystallography beamlines, such as high-brilliant X-ray sources, high-speed readout detectors and robotics, the number of samples that can be examined in a single visit to the beamline has increased dramatically. In order to make these experiments more efficient, two functions, remote monitoring and diffraction image evaluation, have been implemented in the macromolecular crystallography beamlines at the Photon Factory (PF). Remote monitoring allows scientists to participate in the experiment by watching from their laboratories, without having to come to the beamline. Diffraction image evaluation makes experiments easier, especially when using the sample exchange robot. To implement these two functions, two independent clients have been developed that work specifically for remote monitoring and diffraction image evaluation. In the macromolecular crystallography beamlines at PF, beamline control is performed using STARS (simple transmission and retrieval system). The system adopts a client–server style in which client programs communicate with each other through a server process using the STARS protocol. This is an advantage of the extension of the system; implementation of these new functions required few modifications of the existing system.
macromolecular crystallography; beamline control system; remote monitoring; diffraction image evaluation
The three macromolecular crystallography beamlines BL14.1, BL14.2 and BL14.3 at the BESSY II storage ring at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin are described.
Three macromolecular crystallography (MX) beamlines at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) are available for the regional, national and international structural biology user community. The state-of-the-art synchrotron beamlines for MX BL14.1, BL14.2 and BL14.3 are located within the low-β section of the BESSY II electron storage ring. All beamlines are fed from a superconducting 7 T wavelength-shifter insertion device. BL14.1 and BL14.2 are energy tunable in the range 5–16 keV, while BL14.3 is a fixed-energy side station operated at 13.8 keV. All three beamlines are equipped with CCD detectors. BL14.1 and BL14.2 are in regular user operation providing about 200 beam days per year and about 600 user shifts to approximately 50 research groups across Europe. BL14.3 has initially been used as a test facility and was brought into regular user mode operation during the year 2010. BL14.1 has recently been upgraded with a microdiffractometer including a mini-κ goniometer and an automated sample changer. Additional user facilities include office space adjacent to the beamlines, a sample preparation laboratory, a biology laboratory (safety level 1) and high-end computing resources. In this article the instrumentation of the beamlines is described, and a summary of the experimental possibilities of the beamlines and the provided ancillary equipment for the user community is given.
macromolecular crystallography beamlines; high-throughput methods; crystal dehydration; UV radiation-damage-induced phasing; long-wavelength phasing
The ISPyB information-management system for crystallography has been adapted to include data from small-angle X-ray scattering of macromolecules in solution experiments.
Logging experiments with the laboratory-information management system ISPyB (Information System for Protein crystallography Beamlines) enhances the automation of small-angle X-ray scattering of biological macromolecules in solution (BioSAXS) experiments. The ISPyB interface provides immediate user-oriented online feedback and enables data cross-checking and downstream analysis. To optimize data quality and completeness, ISPyBB (ISPyB for BioSAXS) makes it simple for users to compare the results from new measurements with previous acquisitions from the same day or earlier experiments in order to maximize the ability to collect all data required in a single synchrotron visit. The graphical user interface (GUI) of ISPyBB has been designed to guide users in the preparation of an experiment. The input of sample information and the ability to outline the experimental aims in advance provides feedback on the number of measurements required, calculation of expected sample volumes and time needed to collect the data: all of this information aids the users to better prepare for their trip to the synchrotron. A prototype version of the ISPyBB database is now available at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) beamline BM29 and is already greatly appreciated by academic users and industrial clients. It will soon be available at the PETRA III beamline P12 and the Diamond Light Source beamlines I22 and B21.
small-angle X-ray scattering; proteins in solution; automation; laboratory information-management system
The BL-17A macromolecular crystallography beamline at the Photon Factory was updated to improve the accuracy of diffraction experiments conducted using tiny crystals.
BL-17A is a macromolecular crystallography beamline dedicated to diffraction experiments conducted using micro-crystals and structure determination studies using a lower energy X-ray beam. In these experiments, highly accurate diffraction intensity measurements are definitively important. Since this beamline was constructed, the beamline apparatus has been improved in several ways to enable the collection of accurate diffraction data. The stability of the beam intensities at the sample position was recently improved by modifying the monochromator. The diffractometer has also been improved. A new detector table was installed to prevent distortions in the diffractometer’s base during the repositioning of the diffractometer detector. A new pinhole system and an on-axis viewing system were installed to improve the X-ray beam profile at the sample position and the centering of tiny crystal samples.
macromolecular crystallography; beamline
A ‘mini-beam’ apparatus has been developed that conditions the size of an X-ray beam to 5 µm. The design of the apparatus and the characterization of the focal size and flux are presented.
The high-brilliance X-ray beams from undulator sources at third-generation synchrotron facilities are excellent tools for solving crystal structures of important and challenging biological macromolecules and complexes. However, many of the most important structural targets yield crystals that are too small or too inhomogeneous for a ‘standard’ beam from an undulator source, ∼25–50 µm (FWHM) in the vertical and 50–100 µm in the horizontal direction. Although many synchrotron facilities have microfocus beamlines for other applications, this capability for macromolecular crystallography was pioneered at ID-13 of the ESRF. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences and National Cancer Institute Collaborative Access Team (GM/CA-CAT) dual canted undulator beamlines at the APS deliver high-intensity focused beams with a minimum focal size of 20 µm × 65 µm at the sample position. To meet growing user demand for beams to study samples of 10 µm or less, a ‘mini-beam’ apparatus was developed that conditions the focused beam to either 5 µm or 10 µm (FWHM) diameter with high intensity. The mini-beam has a symmetric Gaussian shape in both the horizontal and vertical directions, and reduces the vertical divergence of the focused beam by 25%. Significant reduction in background was achieved by implementation of both forward- and back-scatter guards. A unique triple-collimator apparatus, which has been in routine use on both undulator beamlines since February 2008, allows users to rapidly interchange the focused beam and conditioned mini-beams of two sizes with a single mouse click. The device and the beam are stable over many hours of routine operation. The rapid-exchange capability has greatly facilitated sample screening and resulted in several structures that could not have been obtained with the larger focused beam.
mini-beam; microbeam; microdiffraction; macromolecular crystallography
A new diffractometer for microcrystallography has been developed for the three macromolecular crystallography beamlines of the Swiss Light Source.
A new diffractometer for microcrystallography has been developed for the three macromolecular crystallography beamlines of the Swiss Light Source. Building upon and critically extending previous developments realised for the high-resolution endstations of the two undulator beamlines X06SA and X10SA, as well as the super-bend dipole beamline X06DA, the new diffractometer was designed to the following core design goals. (i) Redesign of the goniometer to a sub-micrometer peak-to-peak cylinder of confusion for the horizontal single axis. Crystal sizes down to at least 5 µm and advanced sample-rastering and scanning modes are supported. In addition, it can accommodate the new multi-axis goniometer PRIGo (Parallel Robotics Inspired Goniometer). (ii) A rapid-change beam-shaping element system with aperture sizes down to a minimum of 10 µm for microcrystallography measurements. (iii) Integration of the on-axis microspectrophotometer MS3 for microscopic sample imaging with 1 µm image resolution. Its multi-mode optical spectroscopy module is always online and supports in situ UV/Vis absorption, fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy. (iv) High stability of the sample environment by a mineral cast support construction and by close containment of the cryo-stream. Further features are the support for in situ crystallization plate screening and a minimal achievable detector distance of 120 mm for the Pilatus 6M, 2M and the macromolecular crystallography group’s planned future area detector Eiger 16M.
macromolecular crystallography; diffractometer; microspectrophotometer; microcrystallography; beamline endstation
An iOS app has been developed as a front end to ISPyB, a laboratory information system for macromolecular crystallography synchrotron beamlines.
The macromolecular crystallography (MX) user experience at synchrotron radiation facilities continues to evolve, with the impact of developments in X-ray detectors, computer hardware and automation methods making it possible for complete data sets to be collected on timescales of tens of seconds. Data can be reduced in a couple of minutes and in favourable cases structures solved and refined shortly after. The information-rich database ISPyB, automatically populated by data acquisition software, data processing and structure solution pipelines at the Diamond Light Source beamlines, allows users to automatically track MX experiments in real time. In order to improve the synchrotron users’ experience, efficient access to the data contained in ISPyB is now provided via an iOS 6.0+ app for iPhones and iPads. This provides users, both local and remote, with a succinct summary of data collection, visualization of diffraction images and crystals, and key metrics for data quality in real time.
remote data collection; synchrotron radiation; macromolecular crystallography; laboratory information management systems (LIMS)
A fast, user-friendly and easily extensible beamline-control system based on a combination of Java Eclipse RCP and EPICS and featuring a user interface similar to that of the SSRL BluIce has been developed at the GM/CA-CAT macromolecular crystallography beamlines in Sector 23 of the Advanced Photon Source.
The trio of macromolecular crystallography beamlines constructed by the General Medicine and Cancer Institutes Collaborative Access Team (GM/CA-CAT) in Sector 23 of the Advanced Photon Source (APS) have been in growing demand owing to their outstanding beam quality and capacity to measure data from crystals of only a few micrometres in size. To take full advantage of the state-of-the-art mechanical and optical design of these beamlines, a significant effort has been devoted to designing fast, convenient, intuitive and robust beamline controls that could easily accommodate new beamline developments. The GM/CA-CAT beamline controls are based on the power of EPICS for distributed hardware control, the rich Java graphical user interface of Eclipse RCP and the task-oriented philosophy as well as the look and feel of the successful SSRL BluIce graphical user interface for crystallography. These beamline controls feature a minimum number of software layers, the wide use of plug-ins that can be written in any language and unified motion controls that allow on-the-fly scanning and optimization of any beamline component. This paper describes the ways in which BluIce was combined with EPICS and converted into the Java-based JBluIce, discusses the solutions aimed at streamlining and speeding up operations and gives an overview of the tools that are provided by this new open-source control system for facilitating crystallographic experiments, especially in the field of microcrystallography.
macromolecular crystallography; beamline automation; data acquisition; high-throughput crystallography
Through the combination of robust mechanized experimental hardware and a flexible control system with an intuitive user interface, SSRL researchers have screened over 200 000 biological crystals for diffraction quality in an automated fashion. Three quarters of SSRL researchers are using these data-collection tools from remote locations.
Complete automation of the macromolecular crystallography experiment has been achieved at SSRL through the combination of robust mechanized experimental hardware and a flexible control system with an intuitive user interface. These highly reliable systems have enabled crystallography experiments to be carried out from the researchers’ home institutions and other remote locations while retaining complete control over even the most challenging systems. A breakthrough component of the system, the Stanford Auto-Mounter (SAM), has enabled the efficient mounting of cryocooled samples without human intervention. Taking advantage of this automation, researchers have successfully screened more than 200 000 samples to select the crystals with the best diffraction quality for data collection as well as to determine optimal crystallization and cryocooling conditions. These systems, which have been deployed on all SSRL macromolecular crystallography beamlines and several beamlines worldwide, are used by more than 80 research groups in remote locations, establishing a new paradigm for macromolecular crystallography experimentation.
remote crystallography data collection; robotics
The 19ID undulator beamline of the Structure Biology Center has been designed and built to take full advantage of the high flux, brilliance and quality of X-ray beams delivered by the Advanced Photon Source. The beamline optics are capable of delivering monochromatic X-rays with photon energies from 3.5 to 20 keV (3.5–0.6 Å wavelength) with fluxes up to 8–18 × 1012 photons s−1 (depending on photon energy) onto cryogenically cooled crystal samples. The size of the beam (full width at half-maximum) at the sample position can be varied from 2.2 mm × 1.0 mm (horizontal × vertical, unfocused) to 0.083 mm × 0.020 mm in its fully focused configuration. Specimen-to-detector distances of between 100 mm and 1500 mm can be used. The high flexibility, inherent in the design of the optics, coupled with a κ-geometry goniometer and beamline control software allows optimal strategies to be adopted in protein crystallographic experiments, thus maximizing the chances of their success. A large-area mosaic 3 × 3 CCD detector allows high-quality diffraction data to be measured rapidly to the crystal diffraction limits. The beamline layout and the X-ray optical and endstation components are described in detail, and the results of representative crystallographic experiments are presented.
X-ray beamline; protein crystallography; MAD/SAD; X-ray optics
The room-temperature structure of lysozyme is determined using 40000 individual diffraction patterns from micro-crystals flowing in liquid suspension across a synchrotron microfocus beamline.
A new approach for collecting data from many hundreds of thousands of microcrystals using X-ray pulses from a free-electron laser has recently been developed. Referred to as serial crystallography, diffraction patterns are recorded at a constant rate as a suspension of protein crystals flows across the path of an X-ray beam. Events that by chance contain single-crystal diffraction patterns are retained, then indexed and merged to form a three-dimensional set of reflection intensities for structure determination. This approach relies upon several innovations: an intense X-ray beam; a fast detector system; a means to rapidly flow a suspension of crystals across the X-ray beam; and the computational infrastructure to process the large volume of data. Originally conceived for radiation-damage-free measurements with ultrafast X-ray pulses, the same methods can be employed with synchrotron radiation. As in powder diffraction, the averaging of thousands of observations per Bragg peak may improve the ratio of signal to noise of low-dose exposures. Here, it is shown that this paradigm can be implemented for room-temperature data collection using synchrotron radiation and exposure times of less than 3 ms. Using lysozyme microcrystals as a model system, over 40 000 single-crystal diffraction patterns were obtained and merged to produce a structural model that could be refined to 2.1 Å resolution. The resulting electron density is in excellent agreement with that obtained using standard X-ray data collection techniques. With further improvements the method is well suited for even shorter exposures at future and upgraded synchrotron radiation facilities that may deliver beams with 1000 times higher brightness than they currently produce.
serial crystallography; room-temperature protein crystallography; radiation damage; CrystFEL; microfocus beamline
A repetitive measurement of the same diffraction image allows to judge the performance of a data collection facility.
The accuracy of X-ray diffraction data depends on the properties of the crystalline sample and on the performance of the data-collection facility (synchrotron beamline elements, goniostat, detector etc.). However, it is difficult to evaluate the level of performance of the experimental setup from the quality of data sets collected in rotation mode, as various crystal properties such as mosaicity, non-uniformity and radiation damage affect the measured intensities. A multiple-image experiment, in which several analogous diffraction frames are recorded consecutively at the same crystal orientation, allows minimization of the influence of the sample properties. A series of 100 diffraction images of a thaumatin crystal were measured on the SBC beamline 19BM at the APS (Argonne National Laboratory). The obtained data were analyzed in the context of the performance of the data-collection facility. An objective way to estimate the uncertainties of individual reflections was achieved by analyzing the behavior of reflection intensities in the series of analogous diffraction images. The multiple-image experiment is found to be a simple and adequate method to decompose the random errors from the systematic errors in the data, which helps in judging the performance of a data-collection facility. In particular, displaying the intensity as a function of the frame number allows evaluation of the stability of the beam, the beamline elements and the detector with minimal influence of the crystal properties. Such an experiment permits evaluation of the highest possible data quality potentially achievable at the particular beamline.
diffraction data precision; signal-to-noise ratio; measurement uncertainty; beamline performance