Pre-assembled clusters distort crystal nucleation kinetics in supersaturated lysozyme solutions

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Efficient determination of three-dimensional protein structures is critical for unraveling structure-function relationships and for supporting targeted drug design. A major impediment to these efforts is our lack of control over the nucleation and growth of high-quality protein crystals for X-ray structure determinations. While basic research on protein crystal growth mechanisms has provided valuable new insights, studies of crystal nucleation have been plagued by inconsistent and outright contradictory results. Using dynamic light scattering and SDS gel electrophoresis, we have investigated possible causes of these inconsistencies. We find that commercial sources of lyophilized hen-egg white lysozyme (HEWL) used in nucleation studies contain significant populations of large (∼ 100 nm), pre-assembled lysozyme clusters that can readily evade standard assays of sample purity. In supersaturated solutions, these clusters act as heterogeneous nucleation centers that enhance the rate of crystal nucleation and significantly deteriorate the quality of macroscopic crystals. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.




Parmar, A. S., Gottschall, P. E., & Muschol, M. (2007). Pre-assembled clusters distort crystal nucleation kinetics in supersaturated lysozyme solutions. Biophysical Chemistry, 129(2–3), 224–234.

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