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Techniques and equipment have been developed that enable large protein crystals (1-6 mm3) flash-cooled in liquid nitrogen at 77 K to be transferred and mounted on a liquid helium Displex cryorefrigerator and cooled to temperatures down to 15 K for accurate neutron diffraction analysis. In preliminary experiments, it was possible to collect high-quality high-resolution neutron diffraction data to 1.55 Å resolution from several large crystals of triclinic hen egg white lysozyme cooled to 15 K. This enabled the subsequent cryogenic analysis of two further proteins, rubredoxin and concanavalin A, at 1.7 and 2.5 Å, respectively, demonstrating the generality of the approach. The ability to flash-cool such large crystals for cryogenic neutron analysis should significantly broaden the range of scientific questions examined by neutron protein crystallography, allowing the analysis of structures and transitions as a function of temperature and enabling freeze-trapped capture of kinetic intermediates in protein systems.

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