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A Proposed Model for Protein Crystal Nucleation and GrowthHow does one take a molecule, strongly asymmetric in both shape and charge distribution, and assemble it into a crystal? We propose a model for the nucleation and crystal growth process for tetragonal lysozyme, based upon fluorescence, light, neutron, and X-ray scattering data, size exclusion chromatography experiments, dialysis kinetics, AFM, and modeling of growth rate data, from this and other laboratories. The first species formed is postulated to be a 'head to side' dimer. Through repeating associations involving the same intermolecular interactions this grows to a 4(sub 3) helix structure, that in turn serves as the basic unit for nucleation and subsequent crystal growth. High salt attenuates surface charges while promoting hydrophobic interactions. Symmetry facilitates subsequent helix-helix self-association. Assembly stability is enhanced when a four helix structure is obtained, with each bound to two neighbors. Only two unique interactions are required. The first are those for helix formation, where the dominant interaction is the intermolecular bridging anion. The second is the anti-parallel side-by-side helix-helix interaction, guided by alternating pairs of symmetry related salt bridges along each side. At this stage all eight unique positions of the P4(sub3)2(sub 1),2(sub 1) unit cell are filled. The process is one of a) attenuating the most strongly interacting groups, such that b) the molecules begin to self-associate in defined patterns, so that c) symmetry is obtained, which d) propagates as a growing crystal. Simple and conceptually obvious in hindsight, this tells much about what we are empirically doing when we crystallize macromolecules. By adjusting the growth parameters we are empirically balancing the intermolecular interactions, preferentially attenuating the dominant strong (for lysozyme the charged groups) while strengthening the lesser strong (hydrophobic) interactions. In the general case for proteins the lack of a singularly defined association pathway may lead to formation of multiple species, i.e., amorphous precipitation. Weak interactions, such as hydrogen bonds, are promiscuous, serving to strengthen rather than define specific interactions. Participation in an interaction sequesters that surface from subsequent interactions, and we expect the strongest bonds to form first. This model, its basis, how it fits into the currently understood osmotic second virial coefficient approach to crystallization, and what it suggests will be discussed.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Pusey, Marc (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Curreri, Peter A.
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2002
Subject Category
Solid-State Physics
Meeting Information
Seminar at University of Alabama in Huntsville(Huntsville, AL)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.