High-throughput in situ X-ray screening of and data collection from protein crystals at room temperature and under cryogenic conditions

Nat Protoc. 2018 Feb;13(2):260-292. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2017.135. Epub 2018 Jan 4.


Protein crystallography has significantly advanced in recent years, with in situ data collection, in which crystals are placed in the X-ray beam within their growth medium, being a major point of focus. In situ methods eliminate the need to harvest crystals, a previously unavoidable drawback, particularly for often small membrane-protein crystals. Here, we present a protocol for the high-throughput in situ X-ray screening of and data collection from soluble and membrane-protein crystals at room temperature (20-25°C) and under cryogenic conditions. The Mylar in situ method uses Mylar-based film sandwich plates that are inexpensive, easy to make, and compatible with automated imaging, and that show very low background scattering. They support crystallization in microbatch and vapor-diffusion modes, as well as in lipidic cubic phases (LCPs). A set of 3D-printed holders for differently sized patches of Mylar sandwich films makes the method robust and versatile, allows for storage and shipping of crystals, and enables automated mounting at synchrotrons, as well as goniometer-based screening and data collection. The protocol covers preparation of in situ plates and setup of crystallization trials; 3D printing and assembly of holders; opening of plates, isolation of film patches containing crystals, and loading them onto holders; basic screening and data-collection guidelines; and unloading of holders, as well as reuse and recycling of them. In situ plates are prepared and assembled in 1 h; holders are 3D-printed and assembled in ≤90 min; and an in situ plate is opened, and a film patch containing crystals is isolated and loaded onto a holder in 5 min.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Crystallization
  • Crystallography, X-Ray / methods*
  • Data Collection
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / instrumentation
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods*
  • Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins / analysis
  • Polyethylene Terephthalates / chemistry
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Temperature
  • X-Rays


  • Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Polyethylene Terephthalates
  • Proteins
  • Lavsan