Application of sulfur SAD to small crystals with a large asymmetric unit and anomalous substructure

Tung Chung Mou, Baisen Zeng, Tzanko I. Doukov, Stephen R. Sprang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The application of sulfur single-wavelength anomalous dispersion (S-SAD) to determine the crystal structures of macromolecules can be challenging if the asymmetric unit is large, the crystals are small, the size of the anomalously scattering sulfur structure is large and the resolution at which the anomalous signals can be accurately measured is modest. Here, as a study of such a case, approaches to the SAD phasing of orthorhombic Ric-8A crystals are described. The structure of Ric-8A was published with only a brief description of the phasing process [Zeng et al. (2019), Structure, 27, 1137-1141]. Here, alternative approaches to determining the 40-atom sulfur substructure of the 103kDa Ric-8A dimer that composes the asymmetric unit are explored. At the data-collection wavelength of 1.77Å measured at the Frontier micro-focusing Macromolecular Crystallography (FMX) beamline at National Synchrotron Light Source II, the sulfur anomalous signal strength, |Δano|/σΔano (d''/sig), approaches 1.4 at 3.4Å resolution. The highly redundant, 11000000-reflection data set measured from 18 crystals was segmented into isomorphous clusters using BLEND in the CCP4 program suite. Data sets within clusters or sets of clusters were scaled and merged using AIMLESS from CCP4 or, alternatively, the phenix.scale_and_merge tool from the Phenix suite. The latter proved to be the more effective in extracting anomalous signals. The HySS tool in Phenix, SHELXC/D and PRASA as implemented in the CRANK2 program suite were each employed to determine the sulfur substructure. All of these approaches were effective, although HySS, as a component of the phenix.autosol tool, required data from all crystals to find the positions of the sulfur atoms. Critical contributors in this case study to successful phase determination by SAD included (i) the high-flux FMX beamline, featuring helical-mode data collection and a helium-filled beam path, (ii) as recognized by many authors, a very highly redundant, multiple-crystal data set and (iii) the inclusion within that data set of data from crystals that were scanned over large ω ranges, yielding highly isomorphous and highly redundant intensity measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1021-1031
Number of pages11
JournalActa crystallographica. Section D, Structural biology
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022


  • Ric-8A
  • data scaling
  • large asymmetric unit
  • single-wavelength anomalous dispersion
  • sulfur SAD phasing
  • sulfur substructure determination


Dive into the research topics of 'Application of sulfur SAD to small crystals with a large asymmetric unit and anomalous substructure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this