Crystallization of sparingly soluble stress-related proteins from cyanobacteria by controlled urea solublization

Monica Dines, Eleonora Sendersky, Rakefet Schwarz, Noam Adir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The phycobilisome photosynthetic antenna complex, found in cyanobacteria and red-algae, interacts with proteins expressed specifically to deal with different forms of physiological stress. Under conditions of nutrient starvation, the NblA protein is required for the process that leads to phycobilisome degradation and bleaching of the cells. HspA, a 16.5 kDa heat shock protein expressed in cyanobacterial cells, has been shown to provide functional stability to the phycobilisome during heat stress. We have cloned the genes encoding for these proteins into bacterial expression vectors in order to determine their three-dimensional structures. The resulting recombinant proteins were found to be sparingly soluble, limiting their usefulness in the performance of crystallization experiments. We have developed a novel protocol that utilizes relatively high concentrations of urea to afford sufficient solubility to the protein. This has lead to the successful growth of diffraction quality crystals of these proteins. Complete data sets collected to 2-2.5 Å from crystals of both proteins shows that the crystals are stable, and useful for structure determination. A preliminary structure of the NblA shows that denaturation has not occurred and specific protein-protein interactions have been preserved. We believe that this protocol may be a generally advantageous method to obtain well diffracting crystals of sparingly soluble proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-121
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Crystallization
  • Heat shock
  • Photosynthesis
  • Phycobilisome
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology


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