• second-harmonic generation;
  • SHG microscopy

A symmetry-additive ab initio model for second-harmonic generation (SHG) activity of protein crystals was applied to assess the likely protein-crystal coverage of SHG microscopy. Calculations were performed for 250 proteins in nine point-group symmetries: a total of 2250 crystals. The model suggests that the crystal symmetry and the limit of detection of the instrument are expected to be the strongest predictors of coverage of the factors considered, which also included secondary-structural content and protein size. Much of the diversity in SHG activity is expected to arise primarily from the variability in the intrinsic protein response as well as the orientation within the crystal lattice. Two or more orders-of-magnitude variation in intensity are expected even within protein crystals of the same symmetry. SHG measurements of tetragonal lysozyme crystals confirmed detection, from which a protein coverage of ∼84% was estimated based on the proportion of proteins calculated to produce SHG responses greater than that of tetragonal lysozyme. Good agreement was observed between the measured and calculated ratios of the SHG intensity from lysozyme in tetragonal and monoclinic lattices.