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Protein crystallization: Eluding the bottleneck of X-ray crystallography

1 Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Biochemistry, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, USA
2 Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA

To date, X-ray crystallography remains the gold standard for the determination of macromolecular structure and protein substrate interactions. However, the unpredictability of obtaining a protein crystal remains the limiting factor and continues to be the bottleneck in determining protein structures. A vast amount of research has been conducted in order to circumvent this issue with limited success. No single method has proven to guarantee the crystallization of all proteins. However, techniques using antibody fragments, lipids, carrier proteins, and even mutagenesis of crystal contacts have been implemented to increase the odds of obtaining a crystal with adequate diffraction. In addition, we review a new technique using the scaffolding ability of PDZ domains to facilitate nucleation and crystal lattice formation. Although in its infancy, such technology may be a valuable asset and another method in the crystallography toolbox to further the chances of crystallizing problematic proteins.
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