The expanding toolkit for structural biology: synchrotrons, X-ray lasers and cryoEM

Muench, Stephen P, Antonyuk, Svetlana V ORCID: 0000-0002-2779-9946 and Hasnain, S Samar
(2019) The expanding toolkit for structural biology: synchrotrons, X-ray lasers and cryoEM. IUCRJ, 6 (2). pp. 167-177.

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Structural biology continues to benefit from an expanding toolkit, which is helping to gain unprecedented insight into the assembly and organization of multi-protein machineries, enzyme mechanisms and ligand/inhibitor binding. The combination of results from X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs), modern synchrotron crystallographic beamlines and cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM) is proving to be particularly powerful. The highly brilliant undulator beamlines at modern synchrotron facilities have empowered the crystallographic revolution of high-throughput structure determination at high resolution. The brilliance of the X-rays at these crystallographic beamlines has enabled this to be achieved using microcrystals, but at the expense of an increased absorbed X-ray dose and a consequent vulnerability to radiation-induced changes. The advent of serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) with X-ray free-electron lasers provides a new opportunity in which damage-free structures can be obtained from much smaller crystals (2 µm) and more complex macromolecules, including membrane proteins and multi-protein complexes. For redox enzymes, SFX provides a unique opportunity by providing damage-free structures at both cryogenic and ambient temperatures. The promise of being able to visualize macromolecular structures and complexes at high resolution without the need for crystals using X-rays has remained a dream, but recent technological advancements in cryoEM have made this come true and hardly a month goes by when the structure of a new/novel macromolecular assembly is not revealed. The uniqueness of cryoEM in providing structural information for multi-protein complexes, particularly membrane proteins, has been demonstrated by examples such as respirasomes. The synergistic use of cryoEM and crystallography in lead-compound optimization is highlighted by the example of the visualization of antimalarial compounds in cytochrome bc1. In this short review, using some recent examples including our own work, we share the excitement of these powerful structural biology methods.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: synchrotron crystallography, serial femtosecond crystallography, cryoEM, MSOX
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2019 10:05
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 00:56
DOI: 10.1107/S2052252519002422
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