Macromolecular crystal growth experiments on international microgravity laboratory – 1
Macromolecular crystal growth experiments, using satellite tobacco mosaic virus (STMV) and canavalin from jack beans as samples, were conducted on a US Space Shuttle mission designated International Microgravity Laboratory — 1 (IML-1), flown January 22–29, 1992. Parallel experiments using identical samples were carried out in both a vapor diffusion-based device (PCG) and a liquid-liquid diffusion-based instrument (CRYOSTAT). The experiments in each device were run at 20–22 °C and at colder temperatures. Crystals were grown in virtually every trial, but the characteristics of the crystals were highly dependent on the crystallization technique employed and the temperature experience of the sample. In general, very good results, based on visual inspection of the crystals, were obtained in both PCG and CRYOSTAT. Unusually impressive results were, however, achieved for STMV in the CRYOSTAT instrument. STMV crystals grown in microgravity by liquid-liquid diffusion were more than 10-fold greater in total volume than any STMV crystals previously grown in the laboratory. X-ray diffraction data collected from eight STMV crystals grown in CRYOSTAT demonstrated a substantial improvement in diffraction quality over the entire resolution range when compared to data from crystals grown on Earth. In addition, the extent of the diffraction pattern for the STMV crystals grown in space extended to 1.8 A resolution, whereas the best crystals that were ever grown under conditions of Earth's gravity produced data limited to 2.3 A resolution. Other observations indicate that the growth of macromolecular crystals is indeed influenced by the presence or absence of gravity. These observations further suggest, consistent with earlier results, that the elimination of gravity provides a more favorable environment for such processes.