Many Ways to Derivatize Macromolecules and Their Crystals for Phasing

  • Miroslawa DauterEmail author
  • Zbigniew Dauter
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1607)


Due to the availability of many macromolecular models in the Protein Data Bank, the majority of crystal structures are currently solved by molecular replacement. However, truly novel structures can only be solved by one of the versions of the special-atom method. The special atoms such as sulfur, phosphorus or metals could be naturally present in the macromolecules, or could be intentionally introduced in a derivatization process. The isomorphous and/or anomalous scattering of X-rays by these special atoms is then utilized for phasing. There are many ways to obtain potentially useful derivatives, ranging from the introduction of special atoms to proteins or nucleic acids by genetic engineering or by chemical synthesis, to soaking native crystals in solutions of appropriate compounds with heavy and/or anomalously scattering atoms. No approach guarantees the ultimate success and derivatization remains largely a trial-and-error process. In practice, however, there is a very good chance that one of a wide variety of the available procedures will lead to successful structure solution.

Key words

Derivatization of crystals Heavy atoms Anomalous signal MIR phasing MAD phasing SAD phasing 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Basic Science Program, Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc.Argonne National LaboratoryArgonneUSA
  2. 2.Synchrotron Radiation Research Section, MCLNational Cancer Institute, Argonne National LaboratoryArgonneUSA

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