Anyone involved in macromolecular crystallography will know that for many years scientists have had to rely on a multi-stage process utilizing protein, usually expressed in engineered cells, which is then extracted and purified before crystallization in vitro and finally prepared for analysis.
As a counter to this time-consuming and substantial scientific effort, there are a number of examples of protein crystallization events occurring in vivo, with next to no human input. In a case presented in a recent paper an insect virus exploits the phenomenon as part of its life cycle.
Not surprisingly an issue with intracellular protein crystals is that they are typically very small, limited by the size of the cell. However, microfocus beamlines at synchrotron light sources prove here to be capable and refined in the analysis of micron-scale in vivo samples.
A group of scientists from the Diamond Light Source and the University of Oxford, UK [Axford et al. (2014), Acta Cryst. D70, 1435-1441; doi:10.1107/S1399004714004714] has been able to study crystals inside the cells directly using X-ray analysis without complex attempts to extract and prepare samples.
It would not be out of place to assume that the presence of cellular material might compromise the experiment. However, the researchers’ results show that the exact opposite may actually be true; the cell maintains the crystals in an environment amenable to the collection of data.
It will be interesting to see if an improved understanding of protein crystallization in vivo can bring more targets within reach of such analysis.
Certainly continued technical developments, including increased photon flux and reduced beam size, will improve the signal-to-noise ratio.
Together with more efficient data processing, this means that we will be able to do more with less and exploit novel microcrystal targets of increasing complexity for in vivo structural studies.
Business Development Manager, IUCr
Dr. Jonathan Agbenyega | Eurek Alert!
New paths for generation of ultracold molecules
11.02.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik
Absorbing acoustics with soundless spirals
10.02.2016 | American Institute of Physics
Today, plants and microorganisms are heavily used for the production of medicinal products. The production of biopharmaceuticals in plants, also referred to as “Molecular Pharming”, represents a continuously growing field of plant biotechnology. Preferred host organisms include yeast and crop plants, such as maize and potato – plants with high demands. With the help of a special algal strain, the research team of Prof. Ralph Bock at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam strives to develop a more efficient and resource-saving system for the production of medicines and vaccines. They tested its practicality by synthesizing a component of a potential AIDS vaccine.
The use of plants and microorganisms to produce pharmaceuticals is nothing new. In 1982, bacteria were genetically modified to produce human insulin, a drug...
Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock which attains an accuracy which had only been predicted theoretically so far. Their optical ytterbium clock achieved a relative systematic measurement uncertainty of 3 E-18. The results have been published in the current issue of the scientific journal "Physical Review Letters".
Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock...
The University of Würzburg has two new space projects in the pipeline which are concerned with the observation of planets and autonomous fault correction aboard satellites. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy funds the projects with around 1.6 million euros.
Detecting tornadoes that sweep across Mars. Discovering meteors that fall to Earth. Investigating strange lightning that flashes from Earth's atmosphere into...
Physicists from Saarland University and the ESPCI in Paris have shown how liquids on solid surfaces can be made to slide over the surface a bit like a bobsleigh on ice. The key is to apply a coating at the boundary between the liquid and the surface that induces the liquid to slip. This results in an increase in the average flow velocity of the liquid and its throughput. This was demonstrated by studying the behaviour of droplets on surfaces with different coatings as they evolved into the equilibrium state. The results could prove useful in optimizing industrial processes, such as the extrusion of plastics.
The study has been published in the respected academic journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).
Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels
A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...
09.02.2016 | Event News
02.02.2016 | Event News
26.01.2016 | Event News
11.02.2016 | Life Sciences
11.02.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
11.02.2016 | Earth Sciences