Lipidic cubic phase (LCP) crystallization has proven successful for high-resolution structure determination of challenging membrane proteins. Here we present a technique for extruding gel-like LCP with embedded membrane protein microcrystals, providing a continuously-renewed source of material for serial femtosecond crystallography. Data collected from sub-10 μm-sized crystals produced with less than 0.5 mg of purified protein yield structural insights regarding cyclopamine binding to the Smoothened receptor.
X-ray crystallography of G protein-coupled receptors and other membrane proteins is hampered by difficulties associated with growing sufficiently large crystals that withstand radiation damage and yield high-resolution data at synchrotron sources. Here we used an x-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) with individual 50-fs duration x-ray pulses to minimize radiation damage and obtained a high-resolution room temperature structure of a human serotonin receptor using sub-10 µm microcrystals grown in a membrane mimetic matrix known as lipidic cubic phase. Compared to the structure solved by traditional microcrystallography from cryo-cooled crystals of about two orders of magnitude larger volume, the room temperature XFEL structure displays a distinct distribution of thermal motions and conformations of residues that likely more accurately represent the receptor structure and dynamics in a cellular environment.
X-ray lasers offer new capabilities in understanding the structure of biological systems, complex materials and matter under extreme conditions1–4. Very short and extremely bright, coherent X-ray pulses can be used to outrun key damage processes and obtain a single diffraction pattern from a large macromolecule, a virus or a cell before the sample explodes and turns into plasma1. The continuous diffraction pattern of non-crystalline objects permits oversampling and direct phase retrieval2. Here we show that high-quality diffraction data can be obtained with a single X-ray pulse from a non-crystalline biological sample, a single mimivirus particle, which was injected into the pulsed beam of a hard-X-ray free-electron laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source5. Calculations indicate that the energy deposited into the virus by the pulse heated the particle to over 100,000 K after the pulse had left the sample. The reconstructed exit wavefront (image) yielded 32-nm full-period resolution in a single exposure and showed no measurable damage. The reconstruction indicates inhomogeneous arrangement of dense material inside the virion. We expect that significantly higher resolutions will be achieved in such experiments with shorter and brighter photon pulses focused to a smaller area. The resolution in such experiments can be further extended for samples available in multiple identical copies.
X-ray diffraction patterns may be obtained from individual submicron protein nanocrystals using a femtosecond pulse from a free-electron X-ray laser. Many “single-shot” patterns are read out every second from a stream of nanocrystals lying in random orientations. The short pulse terminates before significant atomic (or electronic) motion commences, minimizing radiation damage. Simulated patterns for Photosystem I nanocrystals are used to develop a method for recovering structure factors from tens of thousands of snapshot patterns from nanocrystals varying in size, shape and orientation. We determine the number of shots needed for a required accuracy in structure factor measurement and resolution, and investigate the convergence of our Monte-Carlo integration method.
Leptolyngbya sp. strain Heron Island is a cyanobacterium exhibiting chromatic acclimation. However, this strain has strong interactions with other bacteria, making it impossible to obtain axenic cultures for sequencing. A protocol involving an analysis of tetranucleotide frequencies, G+C content, and BLAST searches has been described for separating the cyanobacterial scaffolds from those of its cooccurring bacteria.
Solving high-resolution structures for membrane proteins continues to be a daunting challenge in the structural biology community. In this study we report our high-resolution NMR results for a transmembrane protein, outer envelope protein of molar mass 16 kDa (OEP16), an amino acid transporter from the outer membrane of chloroplasts. Three-dimensional, high-resolution NMR experiments on the 13C, 15N, 2H-triply-labeled protein were used to assign protein backbone resonances and to obtain secondary structure information. The results yield over 95% assignment of N, HN, CO, Cα, and Cβ chemical shifts, which is essential for obtaining a high resolution structure from NMR data. Chemical shift analysis from the assignment data reveals experimental evidence for the first time on the location of the secondary structure elements on a per residue basis. In addition T1Z and T2 relaxation experiments were performed in order to better understand the protein dynamics. Arginine titration experiments yield an insight into the amino acid residues responsible for protein transporter function. The results provide the necessary basis for high-resolution structural determination of this important plant membrane protein.
X-ray free-electron lasers deliver intense femtosecond pulses that promise to yield high resolution diffraction data of nanocrystals before the destruction of the sample by radiation damage. Diffraction intensities of lysozyme nanocrystals collected at the Linac Coherent Light Source using 2 keV photons were used for structure determination by molecular replacement and analyzed for radiation damage as a function of pulse length and fluence. Signatures of radiation damage are observed for pulses as short as 70 fs. Parametric scaling used in conventional crystallography does not account for the observed effects.
X-ray free-electron lasers have enabled new approaches to the structural determination of protein crystals that are too small or radiation-sensitive for conventional analysis1. For sufficiently short pulses, diffraction is collected before significant changes occur to the sample, and it has been predicted that pulses as short as 10 fs may be required to acquire atomic-resolution structural information1–4. Here, we describe a mechanism unique to ultrafast, ultra-intense X-ray experiments that allows structural information to be collected from crystalline samples using high radiation doses without the requirement for the pulse to terminate before the onset of sample damage. Instead, the diffracted X-rays are gated by a rapid loss of crystalline periodicity, producing apparent pulse lengths significantly shorter than the duration of the incident pulse. The shortest apparent pulse lengths occur at the highest resolution, and our measurements indicate that current X-ray free-electron laser technology5 should enable structural determination from submicrometre protein crystals with atomic resolution.
We demonstrate the use of an X-ray free electron laser synchronized with an optical pump laser to obtain X-ray diffraction snapshots from the photoactivated states of large membrane protein complexes in the form of nanocrystals flowing in a liquid jet. Light-induced changes of Photosystem I-Ferredoxin co-crystals were observed at time delays of 5 to 10 µs after excitation. The result correlates with the microsecond kinetics of electron transfer from Photosystem I to ferredoxin. The undocking process that follows the electron transfer leads to large rearrangements in the crystals that will terminally lead to the disintegration of the crystals. We describe the experimental setup and obtain the first time-resolved femtosecond serial X-ray crystallography results from an irreversible photo-chemical reaction at the Linac Coherent Light Source. This technique opens the door to time-resolved structural studies of reaction dynamics in biological systems.
(170.7160) Ultrafast technology; (170.7440) X-ray imaging; (140.3450) Laser-induced chemistry; (140.7090) Ultrafast lasers; (170.0170) Medical optics and biotechnology
Membrane proteins are very important for all living cells, being involved in respiration, photosynthesis, cellular uptake and signal transduction, amongst other vital functions. However, less than 300 unique membrane protein structures have been determined to date, often due to difficulties associated with the growth of sufficiently large and well-ordered crystals. This work has been focused on showing the first proof of concept for using membrane protein nanocrystals and microcrystals for high-resolution structure determination. Upon determining that crystals of the membrane protein Photosystem I, which is the largest and most complex membrane protein crystallized to date, exist with only a hundred unit cells with sizes of less than 200 nm on an edge, work was done to develop a technique that could exploit the growth of the Photosystem I nanocrystals and microcrystals. Femtosecond X-ray protein nanocrystallography was developed for use at the first high-energy X-ray free electron laser, the LCLS at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, in which a liquid jet brought fully-hydrated Photosystem I nanocrystals into the interaction region of the pulsed X-ray source. Diffraction patterns were recorded from millions of individual PSI nanocrystals and data from thousands of different, randomly oriented crystallites were integrated using Monte Carlo integration of the peak intensities. The short pulses (~ 70 fs) provided by the LCLS allowed the possibility to collect the diffraction data before the onset of radiation damage, exploiting the diffract-before-destroy principle. During the initial experiments at the AMO beamline using 6.9-Å wavelength, Bragg peaks were recorded to 8.5-Å resolution, and an electron-density map was determined that did not show any effects of X-ray-induced radiation damage [Chapman H.N., et al. Femtosecond X-ray protein nanocrystallography, Nature 470 (2011) 73–81]. Many additional techniques still need to be developed to explore the femtosecond nanocrystallography technique for experimental phasing and time-resolved X-ray crystallography experiments. The first proof-of-principle results for the femtosecond nanocrystallography technique indicate the incredible potential of the technique to offer a new route to the structure determination of membrane proteins.
membrane proteins; structure determination; femtosecond nanocrystallography; protein nanocrystals; X-ray crystallography; XFEL
High-resolution top-down mass spectrometry was used to characterize eleven integral and five peripheral subunits of the 750 kDa Photosystem II (PSII) complex from the eukaryotic red alga, Galdieria sulphuraria. The primary separation used liquid chromatography mass spectrometry with concomitant fraction collection (LC-MS+) yielding around 40 intact mass tags (IMTs) at 100 ppm mass accuracy on a low-resolution electrospray-ionization mass spectrometer, whose retention and mass were used to guide subsequent high-resolution top-down nano-electrospray Fourier-transform ion-cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry experiments (FT-MS). Both collisionally activated and electron capture dissociation (CAD, ECD) were used to confirm the presence of eleven small subunits to mass accuracy within 5 ppm; PsbE, PsbF, PsbH, PsbI, PsbJ, PsbK, PsbL, PsbM, PsbT, PsbX and PsbZ. All subunits showed covalent modifications that fall into three classes including retention of initiating formyl-methionine, removal of methionine at the N-terminus with or without acetylation, and removal of a longer N-terminal peptide. Peripheral subunits identified by top-down analysis included oxygen evolving complex (OEC) subunits PsbO, PsbU, PsbV, as well as Psb28 (PsbW) and Psb27 (‘PsbZ-like’). Top-down high-resolution mass spectrometry provides the necessary precision, typically less than 5 ppm, for identification and characterization of polypeptide composition of these important membrane protein complexes.
FT-MS; top-down proteomics; membrane proteins; Photosystem II; PTMs; Red algae
In X-ray crystallography, molecular replacement and subsequent refinement is challenging at low resolution. We compared refinement methods using synchrotron diffraction data of photosystem I at 7.4 Å resolution, starting from different initial models with increasing deviations from the known high-resolution structure. Standard refinement spoiled the initial models moving them further away from the true structure and leading to high Rfree-values. In contrast, DEN-refinement improved even the most distant starting model as judged by Rfree, atomic root-mean-square differences to the true structure, significance of features not included in the initial model, and connectivity of electron density. The best protocol was DEN-refinement with initial segmented rigid-body refinement. For the most distant initial model, the fraction of atoms within 2 Å of the true structure improved from 24% to 60%. We also found a significant correlation between Rfree-values and the accuracy of the model, suggesting that Rfree is useful even at low resolution.
DEN refinement; membrane protein; low-resolution refinement; simulated annealing; free R value
X-ray crystallography provides the vast majority of macromolecular structures, but the success of the method relies on growing crystals of sufficient size. In conventional measurements, the necessary increase in X-ray dose to record data from crystals that are too small leads to extensive damage before a diffraction signal can be recorded1-3. It is particularly challenging to obtain large, well-diffracting crystals of membrane proteins, for which fewer than 300 unique structures have been determined despite their importance in all living cells. Here we present a method for structure determination where single-crystal X-ray diffraction ‘snapshots’ are collected from a fully hydrated stream of nanocrystals using femtosecond pulses from a hard-X-ray free-electron laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source4. We prove this concept with nanocrystals of photosystem I, one of the largest membrane protein complexes5. More than 3,000,000 diffraction patterns were collected in this study, and a three-dimensional data set was assembled from individual photosystem I nanocrystals (~200 nm to 2 μm in size). We mitigate the problem of radiation damage in crystallography by using pulses briefer than the timescale of most damage processes6. This offers a new approach to structure determination of macromolecules that do not yield crystals of sufficient size for studies using conventional radiation sources or are particularly sensitive to radiation damage.
The invention of Free Electron X-ray Lasers has opened a new era for membrane protein structure determination with the recent first proof-of-principle of the new concept of femtosecond nanocrystallography. Structure determination is based on thousands of diffraction snapshots that are collected on a fully hydrated stream of nanocrystals. This review provides a summary of the method and describes how femtosecond X-ray crystallography overcomes the radiation damage problem in X-ray crystallography, avoids the need for growth and freezing of large single crystals while offering a new method for direct digital phase determination by making use of the fully coherent nature of the X-ray beam. We briefly review the possibilities for time-resolved crystallography, and the potential for making “molecular movies” of membrane proteins at work.
We demonstrate the use of an X-ray free electron laser synchronized with an optical pump laser to obtain X-ray diffraction snapshots from the photoactivated states of large membrane protein complexes in the form of nanocrystals flowing in a liquid jet. Light-induced changes of Photosystem I-Ferredoxin co-crystals were observed at time delays of 5 to 10 μs after excitation. The result correlates with the microsecond kinetics of electron transfer from Photosystem I to ferredoxin. The undocking process that follows the electron transfer leads to large rearrangements in the crystals that will terminally lead to the disintegration of the crystals. We describe the experimental setup and obtain the first time-resolved femtosecond serial X-ray crystallography results from an irreversible photo-chemical reaction at the Linac Coherent Light Source. This technique opens the door to time-resolved structural studies of reaction dynamics in biological systems.
The ATP synthase is one of the most important enzymes on earth as it couples the transmembrane electrochemical potential of protons to the synthesis of ATP from ADP and inorganic phosphate, providing the main ATP source of almost all higher life on earth. During ATP synthesis, stepwise protonation of a conserved carboxylate on each protein subunit of an oligomeric ring of 10–15 c-subunits is commonly thought to drive rotation of the rotor moiety (c10–14γε) relative to stator moiety (α3β3δab2). Here we report the isolation and crystallization of the c14-ring of subunit c from the spinach chloroplast enzyme diffracting as far as 2.8 Å. Though ATP synthase was not previously known to contain any pigments, the crystals of the c-subunit possessed a strong yellow color. The pigment analysis revealed that they contain 1 chlorophyll and 2 carotenoids, thereby showing for the first time that the chloroplast ATP synthase contains cofactors, leading to the question of the possible roles of the functions of the pigments in the chloroplast ATP synthase.
ATP synthase; crystallization; membrane proteins; chlorophyll; carotenoid
Iron is an essential micronutrient for all organisms because it is a component of enzyme cofactors that catalyze redox reactions in fundamental metabolic processes. Even though iron is abundant on earth, it is often present in the insoluble ferric [Fe (III)] state, leaving many surface environments Fe-limited. The haploid green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is used as a model organism for studying eukaryotic photosynthesis. This study explores structural and functional changes in PSI-LHCI supercomplexes under Fe deficiency as the eukaryotic photosynthetic apparatus adapts to Fe deficiency.
77K emission spectra and sucrose density gradient data show that PSI and LHCI subunits are affected under iron deficiency conditions. The visible circular dichroism (CD) spectra associated with strongly-coupled chlorophyll dimers increases in intensity. The change in CD signals of pigments originates from the modification of interactions between pigment molecules. Evidence from sucrose gradients and non-denaturing (green) gels indicates that PSI-LHCI levels were reduced after cells were grown for 72 h in Fe-deficient medium. Ultrafast fluorescence spectroscopy suggests that red-shifted pigments in the PSI-LHCI antenna were lost during Fe stress. Further, denaturing gel electrophoresis and immunoblot analysis reveals that levels of the PSI subunits PsaC and PsaD decreased, while PsaE was completely absent after Fe stress. The light harvesting complexes were also susceptible to iron deficiency, with Lhca1 and Lhca9 showing the most dramatic decreases. These changes in the number and composition of PSI-LHCI supercomplexes may be caused by reactive oxygen species, which increase under Fe deficiency conditions.
Fe deficiency induces rapid reduction of the levels of photosynthetic pigments due to a decrease in chlorophyll synthesis. Chlorophyll is important not only as a light-harvesting pigment, but also has a structural role, particularly in the pigment-rich LHCI subunits. The reduced level of chlorophyll molecules inhibits the formation of large PSI-LHCI supercomplexes, further decreasing the photosynthetic efficiency.
A complete set of structure factors has been extracted from hundreds of thousands of femtosecond X-ray diffraction patterns from randomly oriented Photosystem I membrane protein nanocrystals, using the Monte Carlo method of intensity integration. The data, collected at the Linac Coherent Light Source, are compared with conventional single-crystal data collected at a synchrotron source, and the quality of each data set was found to be similar.
A complete set of structure factors has been extracted from hundreds of thousands of femtosecond single-shot X-ray microdiffraction patterns taken from randomly oriented nanocrystals. The method of Monte Carlo integration over crystallite size and orientation was applied to experimental data from Photosystem I nanocrystals. This arrives at structure factors from many partial reflections without prior knowledge of the particle-size distribution. The data were collected at the Linac Coherent Light Source (the first hard-X-ray laser user facility), to which was fitted a hydrated protein nanocrystal injector jet, according to the method of serial crystallography. The data are single ‘still’ diffraction snapshots, each from a different nanocrystal with sizes ranging between 100 nm and 2 µm, so the angular width of Bragg peaks was dominated by crystal-size effects. These results were compared with single-crystal data recorded from large crystals of Photosystem I at the Advanced Light Source and the quality of the data was found to be similar. The implications for improving the efficiency of data collection by allowing the use of very small crystals, for radiation-damage reduction and for time-resolved diffraction studies at room temperature are discussed.
nanocrystals; femtosecond diffraction; free-electron lasers; Monte Carlo methods; protein microdiffraction
High-resolution top-down mass spectrometry was used to characterize eleven integral and five peripheral subunits of the 750 kDa Photosystem II (PSII) complex from the eukaryotic red alga, Galdieria sulphuraria. The primary separation used liquid chromatography mass spectrometry with concomitant fraction collection (LC-MS+) yielding around 40 intact mass tags (IMTs) at 100 ppm mass accuracy on a low-resolution electrospray-ionization mass spectrometer, whose retention and mass were used to guide subsequent high-resolution top-down nano-electrospray Fourier-transform ion-cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry experiments (FT-MS). Both collisionally activated and electron capture dissociation (CAD, ECD) were used to confirm the presence of eleven small subunits to mass accuracy within 5 ppm; PsbE, PsbF, PsbH, PsbI, PsbJ, PsbK, PsbL, PsbM, PsbT, PsbX and PsbZ. All subunits showed covalent modifications that fall into three classes including retention of initiating formylmethionine, removal of methionine at the N-terminus with or without acetylation, and removal of a longer N-terminal peptide. Peripheral subunits identified by top-down analysis included oxygen evolving complex (OEC) subunits PsbO, PsbU, PsbV, as well as Psb28 (PsbW) and Psb27 (‘PsbZ-like’). Top-down high-resolution mass spectrometry provides the necessary precision, typically less than 5 ppm, for identification and characterization of polypeptide composition of these important membrane protein complexes.
FT-MS; top-down proteomics; membrane proteins; Photosystem II; PTMs; Red algae
The structure of photosystem I at 3.8 A resolution illustrated the main structural elements of the water-oxidizing photosystem II complex, including the constituents of the electron transport chain. The location of the Mn cluster within the complex has been identified for the first time to our knowledge. At this resolution, no individual atoms are visible, however, the electron density of the Mn cluster can be used to discuss both the present models of the Mn cluster as revealed from various spectroscopic methods and the implications for the mechanisms of water oxidation. Twenty-six chlorophylls from the antenna system of photosystem II have been identified. They are arranged in two layers, one close to the stromal side and one close to the lumenal side. Comparing the structure of the antenna system of photosystem II with the chlorophyll arrangement in photosystem I, which was recently determined at 2.5 A resolution shows that photosystem II lacks the central domain of the photosystem I antenna, which is discussed in respect of the repair cycle of photosystem II due to photoinhibition.
Serial femtosecond crystallography is an X-ray free-electron-laser-based method with considerable potential to have an impact on challenging problems in structural biology. Here we present X-ray diffraction data recorded from microcrystals of the Blastochloris viridis photosynthetic reaction centre to 2.8 Å resolution and determine its serial femtosecond crystallography structure to 3.5 Å resolution. Although every microcrystal is exposed to a dose of 33 MGy, no signs of X-ray-induced radiation damage are visible in this integral membrane protein structure.
Serial femtosecond crystallography is an X-ray free-electron-laser-based method that uses X-ray bursts to determine protein structures. Here the authors present the structure of a photosynthetic reaction centre, an integral membrane protein, achieved with no sign of X-ray-induced radiation damage.