Computational crystallization

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2016 Jul 15:602:12-20. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2016 Jan 11.


Crystallization is a key step in macromolecular structure determination by crystallography. While a robust theoretical treatment of the process is available, due to the complexity of the system, the experimental process is still largely one of trial and error. In this article, efforts in the field are discussed together with a theoretical underpinning using a solubility phase diagram. Prior knowledge has been used to develop tools that computationally predict the crystallization outcome and define mutational approaches that enhance the likelihood of crystallization. For the most part these tools are based on binary outcomes (crystal or no crystal), and the full information contained in an assembly of crystallization screening experiments is lost. The potential of this additional information is illustrated by examples where new biological knowledge can be obtained and where a target can be sub-categorized to predict which class of reagents provides the crystallization driving force. Computational analysis of crystallization requires complete and correctly formatted data. While massive crystallization screening efforts are under way, the data available from many of these studies are sparse. The potential for this data and the steps needed to realize this potential are discussed.

Keywords: Crystallization; computational; crystallization data; crystallography; macromolecular.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Crystallization / methods*
  • Crystallization / trends
  • Crystallography / methods*
  • Crystallography / trends
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proteins / chemical synthesis*
  • Proteins / ultrastructure*


  • Proteins