Heterogeneous and Epitaxial Nucleation of Protein Crystals on Mineral Surfaces

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Science  22 Jan 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4838, pp. 385-387
DOI: 10.1126/science.239.4838.385


Fifty different mineral samples were tested as potential heterogeneous or epitaxial nucleants for four commonly crystallized proteins. It was found, by conventional protein crystallization techniques, that for each protein there was a set of mineral substrates that promoted nucleation of crystals at lower critical levels of supersaturation than required for spontaneous growth. Numerous examples, involving all four proteins, were observed of modification of crystal habit and, in some cases, unit cell properties promoted by the presence of the mineral nucleants. In at least one case, the growth of lysozyme on the mineral apophyllite, it was shown by lattice analysis and x-ray diffraction that the nucleation and growth of the protein crystal on the mineral was likely to involve a direct lattice match.