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Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) has increasingly been used by the structural biology community in recent years to obtain low-resolution information on solubilized biomacromolecular complexes in solution. In combination with deuterium labelling and solvent-contrast variation (H2O/D2O exchange), SANS provides unique information on individual components in large heterogeneous complexes that is perfectly complementary to the structural restraints provided by crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance and electron microscopy. Typical systems studied include multi-protein or protein–DNA/RNA complexes and solubilized membrane proteins. The internal features of these systems are less accessible to the more broadly used small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) technique owing to a limited range of intra-complex and solvent electron-density variation. Here, the progress and developments of biological applications of SANS in the past decade are reviewed. The review covers scientific results from selected biological systems, including protein–protein complexes, protein–RNA/DNA complexes and membrane proteins. Moreover, an overview of recent developments in instruments, sample environment, deuterium labelling and software is presented. Finally, the perspectives for biological SANS in the context of integrated structural biology approaches are discussed.

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