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Biomolecular Action Movies: Flash Imaging with X-ray lasers

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Presenters: Matthias Frank, Megan Shelby
with Erin McKay, Tracy HS

Proteins are nature’s machines, performing tasks from transforming sunlight into useable energy to binding oxygen for transport through the body. These functions depend on the structural arrangement of atoms within the protein, which was, until recently, only possible to measure statically, in easily crystallized samples via conventional X-ray diffraction. Many physiologically important proteins, especially proteins imbedded in the cell membrane, are notoriously difficult to grow into the large, uniform protein crystals required by this method. In the past decade, X-ray Free Electron Lasers (XFELs), a new type of X-ray source, have begun to come online. Using ultra-bright, ultrafast X-ray pulses of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, this technology allows us to measure not only static pictures of protein structure but to record “molecular movies” of proteins in action, even for proteins that only produce small crystals. Once a reaction is triggered, X-ray pulses record “frames” as the protein’s structure evolves.

Saturday, February 3 at 9:30 am and 11:15 am

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