Structural Biology Center

About the Resource

The Structural Biology Center (SBC) is a resource for X-ray macromolecular crystallography (MX) at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source (APS). SBC research focuses on proteins relevant to BER missions (especially plant and bacterial proteins) and on improving hardware and software for data collection at synchrotron beamlines. SBC offers efficient data collection and structure determination systems for protein crystallography. Researchers have deposited more than 6,000 structures in the Protein Data Bank using data measured at SBC and have produced more than 2,000 publications.

SBC has two beamlines at APS’s Sector 19—one insertion device (19-ID) and one bending magnet (19-BM)—that provide powerful and productive X-ray sources for structural biology research. Both can be accessed onsite or remotely for experiments, structure analysis, and data backup.

The beamlines can deliver very low angular divergence X-ray micro-beams onto micrometer-size crystal samples mounted using robotic systems, thereby permitting scientists to study the structures of large and complex molecular systems at atomic resolution. Diffraction from these crystals is recorded on large, fast, and efficient area detectors, and is processed on integrated computing systems with advanced control and data analysis software designed specifically for SBC. The integrated robotics of sample mounting and the automation of data collection and structure determination lower the training barrier for beamline use and enable remote access on both beamlines.

At SBC, all aspects of a crystallographic experiment, including crystal decay and the signal-to-noise ratio, can be optimized. Data can be processed and structures determined using semi-automated approaches in near-real time, in many cases. 19-ID provides in situ and in cellulo data collection [Editorial Note: please flesh out this sentence to explain what “in situ” and “in cellulo” mean in the context of crystallography].


About the Home Facility

The Advanced Photon Source is a DOE scientific user facility at Argonne National Laboratory sponsored by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences. APS provides ultra-bright, high-energy, storage-ring-generated X-ray beams for research in almost all scientific disciplines.

Unique properties of APS synchrotron radiation include its continuous spectrum, high flux and brightness, and high coherence, which make APS an indispensable tool for exploring matter. The wavelengths of its emitted photons can probe a range of sample dimensions from the atomic scale to entire cells, thereby providing incisive probes for advanced research in materials science, physical and chemical sciences, metrology, geosciences, environmental sciences, biosciences, medical sciences, and pharmaceutical sciences.

Other APS Capabilities

APS offers more than 60 beamlines that can be applied to broad range of experimental conditions. The complete listing of contacts, specifications, and status for all APS beamlines is available on the APS website.

Three broad categories of experimental techniques are available at APS:

  • Scattering utilizes patterns of light produced when X-rays are deflected by the closely-spaced lattice of atoms in solids. This technique is commonly used to determine the structures of crystals and large molecules such as proteins.
  • Imaging techniques use the light-source beam to visualize samples at fine spatial resolutions. These techniques are applied in diverse research areas, including cell biology, lithography, infrared microscopy, radiology, and X-ray tomography.
  • Spectroscopy reveals the energies of particles emitted or absorbed by samples exposed to the light-source beam. This technique is commonly used to determine the characteristics of chemical bonding and electron motion.

SBC and other major research projects focusing on systems, synthetic, and structural biology take advantage of Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Protein Characterization Facility (APCF). APCF establishes state-of-the-art laboratories integrated with a scientific collaboration facility for protein production, characterization, and crystallization.

APCF efficiently delivers crystals to APS’ powerful X-ray beamlines and takes full advantage of Argonne’s facilities for determining three-dimensional structures of proteins and other biological macromolecules. APCF also characterizes protein functions and studies their interactions with other macromolecules and small ligands.