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Keywords:

  • specific radiation damage;
  • disulphide bridges;
  • methionine sulphur;
  • cystein suphur;
  • X-ray energy

It is important to consider radiation damage to crystals caused by data collection when solving structures and critical when determining protein function, which can often depend on very subtle structural characteristics. In this study the rate of damage to specific sites in protein crystals cooled at 100 K is found to depend on the energy of the incident X-ray beam. Several lysozyme crystals were each subjected to 3–26 MGy of cumulative X-ray exposure by collecting multiple data sets from each crystal at either 9 keV or 14 keV. The integrated electron density surrounding each S atom in the structure was calculated for each data set and the change in electron density was evaluated as a function of dose at the two energies. The rate of electron density decrease per cubic Å per MGy was determined to be greater at 14 keV than at 9 keV for cysteine sulfurs involved in disulphide bridges; no statistically significant differences in the decay rates were found for methionine sulfurs. These preliminary results imply that it might be possible to minimize certain types of specific radiation damage by an appropriate choice of energy. Further experiments studying a variety of photolabile sites over a wider range of energies are needed to confirm this conclusion.