Laser ablation for protein crystal nucleation and seeding
With the recent development in pulsed lasers with ultrashort pulse widths or wavelengths, spatially precise, low-damage processing by femtosecond or deep-UV laser ablation has shown promise for the production of protein single crystals suitable for X-ray crystallography. Femtosecond laser processing of supersaturated solutions can shorten the protein nucleation period or can induce nucleation at low supersaturation, which improves the crystal quality of various proteins including membrane proteins and supra-complexes. In addition to nucleation, processing of protein crystals by femtosecond or deep-UV laser ablation can produce single crystalline micro- or macro-seeds without deterioration of crystal quality. This tutorial review gives an overview of the successful application of laser ablation techniques to nucleation and seeding for the production of protein single crystals, and also describes the advantages from a physico-chemical perspective.