From Brookhaven Lab: “A New Approach for Solving Protein Structures”

Brookhaven Lab

Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Laura Mgrdichian

Using synchrotron x-ray beams to solve the molecular structures of proteins and other large biological molecules has yielded many advances in medicine, such as drug therapies for cancer. Improvements in the techniques available to scientists could lead to even more exciting advances. Recently, scientists from [Brookhaven] NSLS, the New York Structural Biology Center and Columbia University discovered a new method to determine molecular structures that would have been difficult or impossible to solve otherwise. Their work is reported in the May 25 online edition of Science.

A native protein structure as determined using the multiple-crystal SAD method. The complex of four protein chains is shown as a ribbon diagram and is colored violet. The anomalously scattering substructure, containing 28 sulfur atoms and three sulfate ions, is represented as spheres (yellow for sulfur, yellow/red for sulfate).

The process of using x-rays to determine protein structures, known as macromolecular crystallography, begins by growing pure crystals of the molecule. Crystals, being regular arrays of these molecules, generate diffraction patterns when exposed to x-rays, and these diffraction data can be measured accurately and used to extract structural information – a very complex task.

See the full article here.

One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

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