, Volume 18, Issue 3-4, pp 184-189

JAXA-GCF project - high-quality protein crystals grown under microgravity environment for better understanding of protein structure

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Since 2003, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA, former NASDA) has been conducting a project on a semi-annual basis (JAXA-GCF) to obtain high-quality protein crystals in the microgravity environment using the Russian transportation system. For this project, protein samples were mostly provided by Japanese users for whom JAXA provided technical and clerical support for crystallization experiments in microgravity. For the project, JAXA has constructed a user-friendly support service for microgravity experiments and provided regular and frequent flight opportunities. To simplify and improve technological matters, JAXA devised a gel-tube method crystallization device, which is effective both in space and on ground, based on the counter-diffusion technique. JAXA also provided ground-based techniques for efficient preliminary optimization of crystallization conditions using a 1-dimensional simulation and for harvesting and cryoprotecting crystals before X-ray diffraction experiments. These improvements have significantly increased the success rate of obtaining useful results. In conclusion, JAXA has developed technologies for growing, in microgravity, high-quality protein crystals, which may diffract up to atomic resolution, for a better understanding of 3-dimensional protein structures through X-ray diffraction experiments.