Enhancement of Protein Crystal Nucleation by Critical Density Fluctuations

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Science  26 Sep 1997:
Vol. 277, Issue 5334, pp. 1975-1978
DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5334.1975

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Numerical simulations of homogeneous crystal nucleation with a model for globular proteins with short-range attractive interactions showed that the presence of a metastable fluid-fluid critical point drastically changes the pathway for the formation of a crystal nucleus. Close to this critical point, the free-energy barrier for crystal nucleation is strongly reduced and hence, the crystal nucleation rate increases by many orders of magnitude. Because the location of the metastable critical point can be controlled by changing the composition of the solvent, the present work suggests a systematic approach to promote protein crystallization.

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