International Tables for Crystallography

General methods
C. Sauter, B. Lorber, A. McPherson and R. Giegé. International Tables for Crystallography (2012). Vol. F, ch. 4.1, pp. 99-121  [ doi:10.1107/97809553602060000812 ]


The preparation of well diffracting crystals is a crucial step of any crystallographic project. This chapter defines the nature of biomacromolecular crystals, sketches the theoretical background of crystallogenesis and describes the practical approaches currently available for crystal growth in structural biology. Chemical, biochemical and physical parameters that affect crystallization are discussed. Emphasis is given to the importance of purity and of structural homogeneity. The classical crystallization methodologies are described, such as the favoured vapour-phase equilibration, batch and dialysis techniques, and the less widely used but powerful counter-diffusion methods, and the new trends for their miniaturization and automation are outlined. Advanced methodologies are also covered such as growth methods in convection-free media (i.e. in microfluidic devices or in gels). Furthermore, the behaviour of macromolecules during the prenucleation, nucleation and growth steps is discussed from the physics viewpoint, and ways to enhance crystal perfection are given. In a practical perspective, strategies to efficiently prepare crystals for structural biology and to overcome crystallization bottlenecks are proposed.

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About International Tables for Crystallography

International Tables for Crystallography is the definitive resource and reference work for crystallography. The series consists of nine volumes and comprises articles and tables of data relevant to crystallographic research and to applications of crystallographic methods in all sciences concerned with the structure and properties of materials.