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Models from Big Molecules Captured in a Flash Print
Sunday, 26 May 2013 00:00

The structures of most of the two million proteins in the human body are unknown because they can’t be crystallized. Peter Zwart of the Physical Biosciences Division and his colleagues have come up with a new algorithm for efficiently solving the structures of proteins and other big molecules in their more natural fluid states, using the “diffract before destroy” capability of free-electron laser light sources like SLAC’s LCLS. Called fluctuation x-ray scattering, the technique uses the average diffraction patterns of numerous particles in solution, all captured simultaneously.

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Fluctuation x-ray scattering is the basis of a new technique for rapidly modeling the shapes of large biological molecules, here demonstrated (gray envelopes) using existing diffraction data superposed on known high-resolution structures. Top left, lysine-arginine-ornithine (LAO) binding protein; top right, lysozome; bottom left, peroxiredoxin; and, bottom right, Satellite Tobacco Mosaic Virus (STMV).