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Acta Crystallographica Section D

Acta Crystallographica Section D: Biological Crystallography welcomes the submission of articles covering any aspect of structural biology, with a particular emphasis on the structures of biological macromolecules and the methods used to determine them. R

Published: 2017-08-18


2017 publication guidelines for structural modelling of small-angle scattering data from biomolecules in solution: an update


In 2012, preliminary guidelines were published addressing sample quality, data acquisition and reduction, presentation of scattering data and validation, and modelling for biomolecular small-angle scattering (SAS) experiments. Biomolecular SAS has since continued to grow and authors have increasingly adopted the preliminary guidelines. In parallel, integrative/hybrid determination of biomolecular structures is a rapidly growing field that is expanding the scope of structural biology. For SAS to contribute maximally to this field, it is essential to ensure open access to the information required for evaluation of the quality of SAS samples and data, as well as the validity of SAS-based structural models. To this end, the preliminary guidelines for data presentation in a publication are reviewed and updated, and the deposition of data and associated models in a public archive is recommended. These guidelines and recommendations have been prepared in consultation with the members of the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) Small-Angle Scattering and Journals Commissions, the Worldwide Protein Data Bank (wwPDB) Small-Angle Scattering Validation Task Force and additional experts in the field.

AUSPEX: a graphical tool for X-ray diffraction data analysis


In this paper, AUSPEX, a new software tool for experimental X-ray data analysis, is presented. Exploring the behaviour of diffraction intensities and the associated estimated uncertainties facilitates the discovery of underlying problems and can help users to improve their data acquisition and processing in order to obtain better structural models. The program enables users to inspect the distribution of observed intensities (or amplitudes) against resolution as well as the associated estimated uncertainties (sigmas). It is demonstrated how AUSPEX can be used to visually and automatically detect ice-ring artefacts in integrated X-ray diffraction data. Such artefacts can hamper structure determination, but may be difficult to identify from the raw diffraction images produced by modern pixel detectors. The analysis suggests that a significant portion of the data sets deposited in the PDB contain ice-ring artefacts. Furthermore, it is demonstrated how other problems in experimental X-ray data caused, for example, by scaling and data-conversion procedures can be detected by AUSPEX.

Protein structure determination by electron diffraction using a single three-dimensional nanocrystal


Three-dimensional nanometre-sized crystals of macromolecules currently resist structure elucidation by single-crystal X-ray crystallography. Here, a single nanocrystal with a diffracting volume of only 0.14 µm3, i.e. no more than 6 × 105 unit cells, provided sufficient information to determine the structure of a rare dimeric polymorph of hen egg-white lysozyme by electron crystallography. This is at least an order of magnitude smaller than was previously possible. The molecular-replacement solution, based on a monomeric polyalanine model, provided sufficient phasing power to show side-chain density, and automated model building was used to reconstruct the side chains. Diffraction data were acquired using the rotation method with parallel beam diffraction on a Titan Krios transmission electron microscope equipped with a novel in-house-designed 1024 × 1024 pixel Timepix hybrid pixel detector for low-dose diffraction data collection. Favourable detector characteristics include the ability to accurately discriminate single high-energy electrons from X-rays and count them, fast readout to finely sample reciprocal space and a high dynamic range. This work, together with other recent milestones, suggests that electron crystallography can provide an attractive alternative in determining biological structures.

The structure of the Pfp1 protease from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Thermococcus thioreducens in two crystal forms


The Pfp1 protease, a cysteine protease of unknown specificity from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Thermococcus thioreducens, was crystallized in two distinctive crystal forms: from concentrated citrate in one case and PEG in the other. X-ray data were collected from both crystal forms at room temperature to about 1.9 Å resolution using a laboratory source and detector, and the structures were solved by molecular replacement using the Pfp1 protease from Pyrococcus horikoshii as the search model. In the T. thioreducens protease structures, Cys18 residues on adjacent molecules in the asymmetric units form intermolecular disulfide bonds, thereby yielding hexamers composed of three cross-linked, quasi-dyad-related dimers with crystallographically exact threefold axes and exhibiting almost exact 32 symmetry. The corresponding residue in P. horikoshii Pfp1 is Tyr18. An individual active site containing Cys100 and His101 also includes a Glu74 residue contributed by a quasi-twofold-related, non-cross-linked subunit. Two catalytic triads are therefore closely juxtaposed about the quasi-twofold axis at the interface of these subunits, and are relatively sequestered within the hexamer cavity. The cysteine in the active site is observed to be oxidized in both of the crystal forms that were studied.

Designing better diffracting crystals of biotin carboxyl carrier protein from Pyrococcus horikoshii by a mutation based on the crystal-packing propensity of amino acids


An alternative rational approach to improve protein crystals by using single-site mutation of surface residues is proposed based on the results of a statistical analysis using a compiled data set of 918 independent crystal structures, thereby reflecting not only the entropic effect but also other effects upon protein crystallization. This analysis reveals a clear difference in the crystal-packing propensity of amino acids depending on the secondary-structural class. To verify this result, a systematic crystallization experiment was performed with the biotin carboxyl carrier protein from Pyrococcus horikoshii OT3 (PhBCCP). Six single-site mutations were examined: Ala138 on the surface of a β-sheet was mutated to Ile, Tyr, Arg, Gln, Val and Lys. In agreement with prediction, it was observed that the two mutants (A138I and A138Y) harbouring the residues with the highest crystal-packing propensities for β-sheet at position 138 provided better crystallization scores relative to those of other constructs, including the wild type, and that the crystal-packing propensity for β-sheet provided the best correlation with the ratio of obtaining crystals. Two new crystal forms of these mutants were obtained that diffracted to high resolution, generating novel packing interfaces with the mutated residues (Ile/Tyr). The mutations introduced did not affect the overall structures, indicating that a β-sheet can accommodate a successful mutation if it is carefully selected so as to avoid intramolecular steric hindrance. A significant negative correlation between the ratio of obtaining amorphous precipitate and the crystal-packing propensity was also found.

Crystal structures of the methyltransferase and helicase from the ZIKA 1947 MR766 Uganda strain


Two nonstructural proteins encoded by Zika virus strain MR766 RNA, a methyltransferase and a helicase, were crystallized and their structures were solved and refined at 2.10 and 2.01 Å resolution, respectively. The NS5 methyltransferase contains a bound S-adenosyl-l-methionine (SAM) co-substrate. The NS3 helicase is in the apo form. Comparison with published crystal structures of the helicase in the apo, nucleotide-bound and single-stranded RNA (ssRNA)-bound states suggests that binding of ssRNA to the helicase may occur through conformational selection rather than induced fit.