Conformational bias imposed by source microseeds results in structural ambiguity

Netanel Tzarum, David Engelberg, Oded Livnah*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The p38 MAP kinase pathway is an essential component of numerous cellular signalling networks which are usually activated in response to extracellular environmental stress conditions. In addition to the canonical activation, several alternative activation pathways have been identified for p38; one of these, in which p38 is initially phosphorylated on Tyr323 and consequently autoactivated, is exclusive to T cells and is induced by TCR activation. Intrinsically active and inactive mutants at position 323 have been developed in order to evaluate the structural changes that occur upon TCR-induced activation. In order to promote crystal growth, cross streak-seeding techniques were utilized. This technique has gained popularity in promoting crystal growth when spontaneous nucleation induces critical defects or is being entirely hindered. The crystal characteristics of some mutants were highly similar to those of the wild-type source seeds (form A). In contrast, other mutants crystallized spontaneously with a different space group and molecular packing (form B). One of the active mutants (Y323T) crystallized in both crystal forms, displaying different packing characteristics and significant differences in molecular conformation that were clearly dictated by the source seeds. This implies that the source seeds used in cross streak-seeding could, in some cases, impose bias on the structural outcome of the studied molecule. Such incidents could occur when the conformational freedom permits crystal packing while not reflecting the authentic structure.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)877-884
Number of pages8
JournalActa Crystallographica Section F: Structural Biology and Crystallization Communications
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • conformational bias
  • microseeding
  • p38 MAP kinase


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