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X-ray crystallography is a technique used to determine the atomic-detail structure of a biological macromolecule. The method relies on the ability to generate a three-dimensional crystal of a highly purified protein or nucleic acid for diffraction by X-rays. The extent of scattering of X-rays by the crystal determines the accuracy of the resulting structural model. Unlike electrons, X-rays cannot be refocused after they have been scattered by their target. Thus, calculations are needed to reconstruct the image of the macromolecule that builds the crystal lattice. Tremendous advances over the past 60 years in recombinant expression and purification, crystal growth methods and equipment, X-ray sources, computer processing power, programs, and graphics have taken X-ray crystallography from a highly specialized field to one increasingly accessible to researchers in the biomedical sciences. In this chapter, we review the major concepts of macromolecular X-ray crystallography, focusing mainly on techniques for crystallizing soluble and membrane proteins, and provide a protocol for the crystallization of lysozyme as a model for the crystallization of other proteins.


Raquel L Lieberman, Mary E Peek, J Derrick Watkins. Determination of soluble and membrane protein structures by X-ray crystallography. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.). 2013;955:475-93

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PMID: 23132076

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