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Annu Rev Phys Chem. 2013;64:37-54. doi: 10.1146/annurev-physchem-040412-110132. Epub 2012 Dec 3.

Small-angle X-ray scattering on biological macromolecules and nanocomposites in solution.

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European Molecular Biology Laboratory Hamburg, 22603 Hamburg, Germany.


Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) is a powerful method to study the structural properties of materials at the nanoscale. Recent progress in instrumentation and analysis methods has led to rapidly growing applications of this technique for the characterization of biological macromolecules in solution. Ab initio and rigid-body modeling methods allow one to build three-dimensional, low-resolution models from SAXS data. With the new approaches, oligomeric states of proteins and macromolecular complexes can be assessed, chemical equilibria and kinetic reactions can be studied, and even flexible objects such as intrinsically unfolded proteins can be quantitatively characterized. This review describes the analysis methods of SAXS data from macromolecular solutions, ranging from the computation of overall structural parameters to advanced three-dimensional modeling. The efficiency of these methods is illustrated by recent applications to biological macromolecules and nanocomposite particles.

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