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Crystals of insulin grown in microgravity on Space Shuttle Mission STS-95 were extremely well ordered and unusually large (many >2 mm). The physical characteristics of six microgravity and six earth-grown crystals were examined by X-ray analysis employing superfine φ slicing and unfocused synchrotron radiation. This experimental setup allowed hundreds of reflections to be precisely examined from each crystal in a short period of time. The microgravity crystals were on average 34 times larger, had sevenfold lower mosaicity, had 54-­fold higher reflection peak heights and diffracted to significantly higher resolution than their earth-grown counterparts. A single mosaic domain model could account for the observed reflection profiles in microgravity crystals, whereas data from earth crystals required a model with multiple mosaic domains. This statistically significant and unbiased characterization indicates that the microgravity environment was useful for the improvement of crystal growth and the resultant diffraction quality in insulin crystals and may be similarly useful for macromolecular crystals in general.
Keywords: insulin; microgravity.

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