Rastering strategy for screening and centring of microcrystal samples of human membrane proteins with a sub-10 µm size X-ray synchrotron beam

Vadim Cherezov, Michael A. Hanson, Mark T. Griffith, Mark C. Hilgart, Ruslan Sanishvili, Venugopalan Nagarajan, Sergey Stepanov, Robert F. Fischetti, Peter Kuhn, Raymond C. Stevens


Crystallization of human membrane proteins in lipidic cubic phase often results in very small but highly ordered crystals. Advent of the sub-10 µm minibeam at the APS GM/CA CAT has enabled the collection of high quality diffraction data from such microcrystals. Herein we describe the challenges and solutions related to growing, manipulating and collecting data from optically invisible microcrystals embedded in an opaque frozen in meso material. Of critical importance is the use of the intense and small synchrotron beam to raster through and locate the crystal sample in an efficient and reliable manner. The resulting diffraction patterns have a significant reduction in background, with strong intensity and improvement in diffraction resolution compared with larger beam sizes. Three high-resolution structures of human G protein-coupled receptors serve as evidence of the utility of these techniques that will likely be useful for future structural determination efforts. We anticipate that further innovations of the technologies applied to microcrystallography will enable the solving of structures of ever more challenging targets.


  • One contribution of 13 to a Theme Supplement ‘Biological physics at large facilities’.

  • Received April 15, 2009.
  • Accepted May 21, 2009.
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