Several distinct computational approaches have recently been implemented to represent conformational heterogeneity from X-ray crystallography datasets that are averaged in time and space. As these modeling methods mature, newly discovered alternative conformations are being used to derive functional protein mechanisms. Room temperature X-ray data collection is emerging as a key variable for sampling functionally relevant conformations also observed in solution studies. Although concerns about radiation damage are warranted with higher temperature data collection, 'diffract and destroy' strategies on X-ray free electron lasers may permit radiation damage-free data collection. X-ray crystallography need not be confined to 'static unique snapshots'; these experimental and computational advances are revealing how the many conformations populated within a single crystal are used in biological mechanisms.
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