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J Synchrotron Radiat. 2008 May;15(Pt 3):285-7. doi: 10.1107/S0909049508004470. Epub 2008 Apr 18.

Mutagenesis of the crystal contact of acidic fibroblast growth factor.

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  • 1Molecular Structural Biology Group, Quantum Beam Science Directorate, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, 2-4 Shirakata-Shirane, Tokai, Ibaraki 319-1195, Japan.


An attempt has been made to improve a crystal contact of human acidic fibroblast growth factor (haFGF; 140 amino acids) to control the crystal growth, because haFGF crystallizes only as a thin-plate form, yielding crystals suitable for X-ray but not neutron diffraction. X-ray crystal analysis of haFGF showed that the Glu81 side chain, located at a crystal contact between haFGF molecules, is in close proximity with an identical residue related by crystallographic symmetry, suggesting that charge repulsion may disrupt suitable crystal-packing interactions. To investigate whether the Glu residue affects the crystal-packing interactions, haFGF mutants in which Glu81 was replaced by Ala, Val, Leu, Ser and Thr were constructed. Although crystals of the Ala and Leu mutants were grown as a thin-plate form by the same precipitant (formate) as the wild type, crystals of the Ser and Thr mutants were grown with increased thickness, yielding a larger overall crystal volume. X-ray structural analysis of the Ser mutant determined at 1.35 A resolution revealed that the hydroxy groups of Ser are linked by hydrogen bonds mediated by the formate used as a precipitant. This approach to engineering crystal contacts may contribute to the development of large protein crystals for neutron crystallography.

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