Experiment and theory for heterogeneous nucleation of protein crystals in a porous medium
Published on Jan 17, 2006in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America9.58
· DOI :10.1073/pnas.0504860102
The determination of high-resolution structures of proteins requires crystals of suitable quality. Because of the new impetus given to structural biology by structural genomics/proteomics, the problem of crystallizing proteins is becoming increasingly acute. There is therefore an urgent requirement for the development of new efficient methods to aid crystal growth. Nucleation is the crucial step that determines the entire crystallization process. Hence, the holy grail is to design a “universal nucleant,” a substrate that induces the nucleation of crystals of any protein. We report a theory for nucleation on disordered porous media and its experimental testing and validation using a mesoporous bioactive gel-glass. This material induced the crystallization of the largest number of proteins ever crystallized using a single nucleant. The combination of the model and the experimental results opens up the scope for the rational design of nucleants, leading to alternative means of controlling crystallization.