A microfluidic device for both on-chip dialysis protein crystallization and in situ X-ray diffraction†
This paper reports a versatile microfluidic chip developed for on-chip crystallization of proteins through the dialysis method and in situ X-ray diffraction experiments. A microfabrication process enabling the integration of regenerated cellulose dialysis membranes between two layers of the microchip is thoroughly described. We also describe a rational approach for optimizing on-chip protein crystallization via chemical composition and temperature control, allowing the crystal size, number and quality to be tailored. Combining optically transparent microfluidics and dialysis provides both precise control over the experiment and reversible exploration of the crystallization conditions. In addition, the materials composing the microfluidic chip were tested for their transparency to X-rays in order to assess their compatibility for in situ diffraction data collection. Background scattering was evaluated using a synchrotron X-ray source and the background noise generated by our microfluidic device was compared to that produced by commercial crystallization plates used for diffraction experiments at room temperature. Once crystals of 3 model proteins (lysozyme, IspE, and insulin) were grown on-chip, the microchip was mounted onto the beamline and partial diffraction data sets were collected in situ from several isomorphous crystals and were merged to a complete data set for structure determination. We therefore propose a robust and inexpensive way to fabricate microchips that cover the whole pipeline from crystal growth to the beam and does not require any handling of the protein crystals prior to the diffraction experiment, allowing the collection of crystallographic data at room temperature for solving the three-dimensional structure of the proteins under study. The results presented here allow serial crystallography experiments on synchrotrons and X-ray lasers under dynamically controllable sample conditions to be observed using the developed microchips.