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Acta Crystallogr D Biol Crystallogr. 2010 Apr;66(Pt 4):339-51. doi: 10.1107/S0907444910008656. Epub 2010 Mar 24.

Radiation damage in macromolecular crystallography: what is it and why should we care?

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Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics, Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QU, England.


Radiation damage inflicted during diffraction data collection in macromolecular crystallography has re-emerged in the last decade as a major experimental and computational challenge, as even for crystals held at 100 K it can result in severe data-quality degradation and the appearance in solved structures of artefacts which affect biological interpretations. Here, the observable symptoms and basic physical processes involved in radiation damage are described and the concept of absorbed dose as the basic metric against which to monitor the experimentally observed changes is outlined. Investigations into radiation damage in macromolecular crystallography are ongoing and the number of studies is rapidly increasing. The current literature on the subject is compiled as a resource for the interested researcher.

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