Levels of Organization Image Map
Step 6: Determine the 3D Structure

Protein Crystals

Image taken from Protein Crystals in Space in Florida Schools at http://www.terryparker.duval.k12.fl.us/uahstud4.htm

The final step needed to identify different kinds of proteins is to determine the protein's three dimensional structure. One common approach is to expose a purified protein to x-rays, and then
examine the pattern of radiation scatter. As x-rays pass through protein, they get deflected and that can produce a visual pattern if the scattered x-rays hit a photographic film placed behind the protein target.

However, this only works if the proteins are made into crystals of repeating units of protein molecules. A simple technique for making protein crystals is described at:

Why does anyone care about the 3D structure of proteins? The answer is that this structure helps scientists understand how the protein binds and interacts with other molecules. It can help develop new drugs that specifically target a given protein.


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