Protein Crystallization in Space: Early Successes and Drawbacks in the German Space Life Sciences Program
Published on Jan 1, 2017
· DOI :10.1007/978-3-319-64054-9_2
The utilization of microgravity for improving protein crystallization and thereby structure determination started in the early 1980s onboard of TEXUS sounding rockets and of the US Space Shuttle. After the successful pioneering work by Prof. Littke, especially the German space life sciences program put much effort into this topic. In spite of some technical and methodological drawbacks, early successes could be obtained as well. In some cases, microgravity experiments enabled crystallization of certain molecules for the first time; in other examples, improved crystals led to a better structure determination with important application potential for structure-function-analysis or even for drug design. Especially after the development of the APCF (Advanced Protein Crystallization Facility) by German industry on contract by ESA and its utilization in Spacelab missions and on the International Space Station ISS, the potential of microgravity for the improvement of crystallization and structure elucidation became clearly visible.