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Keywords:

  • protein crystals;
  • crosslinking;
  • glutaraldehyde;
  • X-ray diffraction;
  • structure analysis

ABSTRACT

The use of protein crystals as a source of nanoscale biotemplates has attracted growing interest in recent years owing to their inherent internal order. As these crystals are vulnerable to environmental changes, potential applications require their stabilization by chemical crosslinking. We have previously shown that such intermolecular chemical crosslinking reactions occurring within protein crystals are not random events, but start at preferred crosslinking sites imposed by the alignment of protein molecules and their packing within the crystalline lattice. Here we propose a new working hypothesis and demonstrate its feasibility in enabling us to extricate homogeneous populations of single protein molecules that display chemical point mutations or of dimers that show homogeneous chemical crosslinking, and that have the potential for isolation of higher structures. Characterization of the crosslinking mechanism and its end products opens the way to the potential retrieval of such specific modified/intermolecular crosslinked products simply by effecting partial crosslinking at identified preferred sites, followed by time-controlled arrest of the crosslinking reaction and dissolution of the crystals by medium exchange complemented by chromatographic purification. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2014;111: 1296–1303. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.