Soft matter perspective on protein crystal assembly.
Crystallography may be the gold standard of protein structure determination, but obtaining the necessary high-quality crystals is also in some ways akin to prospecting for the precious metal. The tools and models developed in soft matter physics to understand colloidal assembly offer some insights into the problem of crystallizing proteins. This topical review describes the various analogies that have been made between proteins and colloids in that context. We highlight the explanatory power of patchy particle models, but also the challenges of providing guidance for crystallizing specific proteins. We conclude with a presentation of possible future research directions. This review is intended for soft matter scientists interested in protein crystallization as a self-assembly problem, and as an introduction to the pertinent physics literature for protein scientists more generally.
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