X-ray diffraction from magnetically oriented solutions of macromolecular assemblies

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  14 Mar 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4743, pp. 1273-1276
DOI: 10.1126/science.3945822


A simple system was developed for obtaining x-ray diffraction patterns from magnetically oriented solutions of macromolecular assemblies. A small permanent magnet was designed that produces a magnetic field of 16 kilogauss in a volume of 1 cubic millimeter and is mountable on most x-ray cameras. Many subcellular structures have sufficient diamagnetic anisotropy that they exhibit orientation in dilute solution when placed between the poles of the magnet. Diffraction from solutions oriented in this magnet can provide substantially more structural information than small-angle scattering from isotropic solutions. In favorable cases, such as dilute solutions of filamentous bacteriophages, it is possible to produce oriented fiber diffraction patterns from which intensities along layer lines can be measured to 7-angstrom resolution. The magnetically induced birefringence observed in solutions of other macromolecular assemblies suggests that this technique may have broad applicability to subcellular structures.