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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Metalloprotein structures at ambient conditions and in real-time: biological crystallography and spectroscopy using X-ray free electron lasers

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Although the structure of enzymes and the chemistry at the catalytic sites have been studied intensively, an understanding of the atomic-scale chemistry requires a new approach beyond steady state X-ray crystallography and X-ray spectroscopy at cryogenic temperatures. Following the dynamic changes in the geometric and electronic structure of metallo-enzymes at ambient conditions, while overcoming the severe X-ray-induced changes to the redox active catalytic center, is key for deriving reaction mechanisms. Such studies become possible by the intense and ultra-short femtosecond (fs) X-ray pulses from an X-ray free electron laser (XFEL) by acquiring a signal before the sample is destroyed. This review describes the recent and pioneering uses of XFELs to study the protein structure and dynamics of metallo-enzymes using crystallography and scattering, as well as the chemical structure and dynamics of the catalytic complexes (charge, spin, and covalency) using spectroscopy during the reaction to understand the electron-transfer processes and elucidate the mechanism.

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