Novel injector allows X-rays to map membrane proteins

Tue, 2014-05-06

Membrane proteins, which include G-protein-coupled receptors, are responsible for many vital functions of the cells and play a key role in human health. They are a prime target for developing drugs to treat diseases such as hypertension, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. Today, more than 50% of all drug targets are membrane proteins.

However, these proteins are notoriously difficult to crystallize. Even when crystals can be obtained, they are very small, diffract badly, are sensitive to radiation and badly withstand being frozen. Obtaining larger crystals is a costly and time-consuming enterprise.

The new injector developed at the Arizona State University by an international team led by Uwe Weierstall aims at investigating the very small and easily produced crystals that cannot be studied today using conventional techniques.

“We came to the ESRF expecting to test the crystals to see if they would diffract, however the results have been so amazing that we are in the process of collecting a complete data set to see if we can solve a structure!” says Uwe Weierstall. “The beamline staff at ID13 have worked extremely hard to prepare for our experiment and make sure that all runs smoothly while we are here. Really, all aspects of our experience here have surpassed expectations.”

The injector was originally designed for use at Free Electron Laser facilities which have a higher photon flux allowing them to reduce exposure time and map small crystals before they are damaged.  Read more here 


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