Direct Observation of Protein Solvation and Discrete Disorder with Experimental Crystallographic Phases

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Science  05 Jan 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5245, pp. 72-77
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5245.72


A complete and accurate set of experimental crystallographic phases to a resolution of 1.8 angstroms was obtained for a 230-residue dimeric fragment of rat mannose-binding protein A with the use of multiwavelength anomalous dispersion (MAD) phasing. An accurate image of the crystal structure could thus be obtained without resort to phases calculated from a model. Partially reduced disulfide bonds, local disorder, and differences in the mobility of chemically equivalent molecules are apparent in the experimental electron density map. A solvation layer is visible that includes well-ordered sites of hydration around polar and charged protein atoms, as well as diffuse, partially disordered solvent shells around exposed hydrophobic groups. Because the experimental phases and the resulting electron density map are free from the influence of a model, they provide a stringent test of theoretical models of macromolecular solvation, motion, and conformational heterogeneity.