A newly expanded database on crystal growth conditions of biological macromolecules is now available to help structural biology programs of the pharmaceutical and food industries improve medicines, vaccines, food products and other industrial processes.
Crystals of biological macromolecules are essential for X-ray structure determinations that are required for rational drug design and protein engineering programs.
The NIST/NASA/CARB Biological Macromolecule Crystallization Database has been expanded to include the NASA Protein Crystal Growth Archive and data from international microgravity experiments.
The database was developed by Gary L. Gilliland, research chemist for the National Institute of Standards and Technology and associate director of the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology. CARB was established in 1984 by NIST, the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute and Montgomery County, Md., as a unique center for government, academic and industry collaboration.
Version 3.0 of the Biological Macromolecule Crystallization Database includes data on more than 2,000 crystal structures of 1,500 biological macromolecules. Pharmaceutical manufacturers use protein structures in designing drugs, while chemical companies use them to understand and alter the action of enzymes. Information on three-dimensional atomic structures of a protein is an invaluable aid in understanding the protein's function.
Growing protein crystals is often the first step in determining a protein's structure, Gilliland explains. It is also often the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process. The database can assist researchers' attempts to grow crystals by providing information on known crystallization conditions for similar proteins.
Crystals included in the database are those published in scientific literature through the middle of 1993. Users can search for data by 20 different parameters, such as macromolecule name, crystal density, crystallization method and year reported. The macromolecules in the database include proteins, nucleic acids, viruses, peptides and complex combinations of these biological molecules.
The database provides researchers with a convenient method for verifying whether a particular macromolecule has been crystallized and, if so, provides the details for reproducing the experiment.
The expanded database is available for $415. It requires seven megabytes of storage space on IBM AT Class or PS/2 PC (80286-80486 chip) with PC-DOS or MS-DOS 2.1 or higher operating system, and 512 kilobytes of memory. It can be used on MacIntosh computers with PC emulator software. Owners of previous versions may upgrade for $90.
To order the NIST/NASA/CARB Biological Macromolecule Crystallization Database, contact the NIST Standard Reference Data Program, A323 Physics Building, Gaithersburg, Md. 20899- 0001, (301) 975-2208, fax: (301) 926-0416, e-mail: srdata [at] enh.nist.gov (via Internet).
As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.