- Author(s): McPherson, Alexander
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-7000-1_2
Protein crystallization was discovered by chance nearly 200 years ago and was developed in the late nineteenth century as a powerful purification tool, and a demonstration of chemical purity. The crystallization of proteins, nucleic acids, and large biological complexes, such as viruses, depends on the creation of a solution that is supersaturated in the macromolecule, but exhibits conditions that do not significantly perturb its natural state. Supersaturation is produced through the addition of mild precipitating agents such as neutral salts or polymers, and by manipulation of various parameters that include temperature, ionic strength, and pH. Also important in the crystallization process are factors that can affect the structural state of the macromolecule, such as metal ions, inhibitors, cofactors, or other conventional small molecules. A variety of approaches have been developed that combine the spectrum of factors that effect and promote crystallization, and among the most widely used are vapor diffusion, dialysis, batch, and liquid-liquid diffusion. Successes in macromolecular crystallization have multiplied rapidly in recent years due to the advent of practical, easy-to-use screening kits, and the application of laboratory robotics.