Crystallization of the Large Membrane Protein Complex Photosystem I in a Microfluidic Channel
ABSTRACT Traditional macroscale protein crystallization is accomplished non-trivially by exploring a range of protein concentrations and buffers in solution until a suitable combination is attained. This methodology is time consuming and resource intensive hindering protein structure determination. Even more difficulties arise when crystallizing large membrane protein complexes such as photosystem I (PSI) due to their large unit cells dominated by solvent and complex characteristics that call for even stricter buffer requirements. Structure determination techniques tailored for these 'difficult to crystallize' proteins such as femtosecond nanocrystallography are being developed, yet still need specific crystal characteristics. Here, we demonstrate a simple and robust method to screen protein crystallization conditions at low ionic strength in a microfluidic device. This is realized in one microfluidic experiment using low sample amounts, unlike traditional methods where each solution condition is setup separately. Second harmonic generation microscopy via Second Order Nonlinear Imaging of Chiral Crystals (SONICC) was applied for the detection of nanometer and micrometer sized PSI crystals within microchannels. To develop the crystallization phase diagram, crystals imaged with SONICC at specific channel locations were correlated to protein and salt concentrations determined by numerical simulations of the time-dependent diffusion process along the channel. Our method demonstrated that a portion of the PSI crystallization phase diagram could be reconstructed in excellent agreement with crystallization conditions determined by traditional methods. We postulate that this approach could be utilized to efficiently study and optimize crystallization conditions for a wide range of proteins that are poorly understood to date.
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ABSTRACT: Serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) is a new emerging method, where X-ray diffraction data are collected from a fully hydrated stream of nano- or microcrystals of biomolecules in their mother liquor using high-energy, X-ray free-electron lasers. The success of SFX experiments strongly depends on the ability to grow large amounts of well-ordered nano/microcrystals of homogeneous size distribution. While methods to grow large single crystals have been extensively explored in the past, method developments to grow nano/microcrystals in sufficient amounts for SFX experiments are still in their infancy. Here, we describe and compare three methods (batch, free interface diffusion (FID) and FID centrifugation) for growth of nano/microcrystals for time-resolved SFX experiments using the large membrane protein complex photosystem II as a model system.