Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Anal Chem. 2003 Apr 1;75(7):1733-40.

Screening of nucleation conditions using levitated drops for protein crystallization.

Author information

  • 1Technical Analytical Chemistry, Biochemistry, Atomic Physics, and Electrical Measurements, Lund University, P.O. Box 124, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden.


The growth of suitable protein crystals is an essential step in the structure determination of a protein by X-ray crystallography. At present, crystals are mostly grown using trial-and-error procedures, and protocols that rapidly screen for the crystal nucleation step are rare. Presented here is an approach to minimize the consumption of precious protein material while searching for the nucleation conditions. Acoustically levitated drops of known protein concentration (0.25-1.5-microL volumes) are injected with crystallizing agents using piezoelectric flow-through dispensers (ejecting 50-100-pL droplets at 1-9000 droplets/s). A restricted number of crystallizing agents representing three classes are used: poly(ethylene glycol), salts, and the viscous alcohol 2-methyl 2,4-pentanediol. From a digitized picture of the levitated drop volume, calculations are performed giving the concentrations of all components in the drop at any time during a "precipitation experiment". Supersaturation is the prerequisite for crystal nucleation, and protein precipitation indicates high supersaturation. A light source illuminates the levitated drop, and protein precipitation is monitored using right-angle light scattering. On the basis of these intensity measurements and the volume determination, precipitation diagrams for each crystallizing agent are constructed that give the protein/crystallizing agent concentration boundaries between the minimum and the maximum detectable protein precipitation. Guided by the concentration values obtained from such plots, when approaching the supersaturation region, separate crystallization drops are mixed and allowed to equilibrate under paraffin oil. At conditions in which microcrystals can be observed, the nucleation tendency of the macromolecule is confirmed. Optimization of crystallization conditions can then follow. Proteins tested include alcohol dehydrogenase and D-serine dehydratase. Alcohol dehydrogenase, known to crystallize easily, was used to evaluate whether the ultrasonic field inhibits nucleation. Details are given for the screening procedure of D-serine dehydratase, an enzyme earlier found to be difficult to crystallize reproducibly. The time and material-saving qualities of this method are emphasized, since a range of conditions can quickly be screened using small amounts of protein to roughly determine solubility characteristics of a protein before crystallization trials are initiated.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk