Searching for silver bullets: an alternative strategy for crystallizing macromolecules.
Abstract Based on a hypothesis that various small molecules might establish stabilizing, intermolecular, non covalent crosslinks in protein crystals and thereby promote lattice formation, we carried out three separate experiments. We assessed the impact of 200 chemicals on the propensity of 81 different proteins and viruses to crystallize. The experiments were comprised of 18 240 vapor diffusion trials. A salient feature of the experiments was that, aside from the inclusion of the reagent mixes, only two fundamental crystallization conditions were used, 30% PEG 3350, and 50% Tacsimate™ at pH 7. Overall, 65 proteins (85%) were crystallized. Most significant was that 35 of the 65 (54%) crystallized only in the presence of one or more reagent mixes, but not in control samples lacking any additives. Among the most promising types of reagent mixes were those composed of polyvalent, charged groups, such as di and tri carboxylic acids, diamino compounds, molecules bearing one or more sulfonyl or phosphate groups, and a broad range of common biochemicals, coenzymes, biological effectors, and ligands. We propose that an alternate approach to crystallizing proteins might be developed, which employs a limited set of fundamental crystallization conditions combined with a broad screen of potentially useful small molecule additives.