A simple vapor-diffusion method enables protein crystallization inside the HARE serial crystallography chip

Acta Crystallogr D Struct Biol. 2021 Jun 1;77(Pt 6):820-834. doi: 10.1107/S2059798321003855. Epub 2021 May 19.


Fixed-target serial crystallography has become an important method for the study of protein structure and dynamics at synchrotrons and X-ray free-electron lasers. However, sample homogeneity, consumption and the physical stress on samples remain major challenges for these high-throughput experiments, which depend on high-quality protein microcrystals. The batch crystallization procedures that are typically applied require time- and sample-intensive screening and optimization. Here, a simple protein crystallization method inside the features of the HARE serial crystallography chips is reported that circumvents batch crystallization and allows the direct transfer of canonical vapor-diffusion conditions to in-chip crystallization. Based on conventional hanging-drop vapor-diffusion experiments, the crystallization solution is distributed into the wells of the HARE chip and equilibrated against a reservoir with mother liquor. Using this simple method, high-quality microcrystals were generated with sufficient density for the structure determination of four different proteins. A new protein variant was crystallized using the protein concentrations encountered during canonical crystallization experiments, enabling structure determination from ∼55 µg of protein. Additionally, structure determination from intracellular crystals grown in insect cells cultured directly in the features of the HARE chips is demonstrated. In cellulo crystallization represents a comparatively unexplored space in crystallization, especially for proteins that are resistant to crystallization using conventional techniques, and eliminates any need for laborious protein purification. This in-chip technique avoids harvesting the sensitive crystals or any further physical handling of the crystal-containing cells. These proof-of-principle experiments indicate the potential of this method to become a simple alternative to batch crystallization approaches and also as a convenient extension to canonical crystallization screens.

Keywords: fixed-target crystallography; in cellulo crystallization; in vivo crystals; protein crystallization; serial crystallography.

MeSH terms

  • Crystallography, X-Ray / methods*
  • Proof of Concept Study
  • Proteins / chemistry*


  • Proteins