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      Non-linearity of the collagen triple helix in solution and implications for collagen function

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          Collagen adopts a characteristic supercoiled triple helical conformation which requires a repeating (Xaa-Yaa-Gly) n sequence. Despite the abundance of collagen, a combined experimental and atomistic modelling approach has not so far quantitated the degree of flexibility seen experimentally in the solution structures of collagen triple helices. To address this question, we report an experimental study on the flexibility of varying lengths of collagen triple helical peptides, composed of six, eight, ten and twelve repeats of the most stable Pro-Hyp-Gly (POG) units. In addition, one unblocked peptide, (POG) 10unblocked, was compared with the blocked (POG) 10 as a control for the significance of end effects. Complementary analytical ultracentrifugation and synchrotron small angle X-ray scattering data showed that the conformations of the longer triple helical peptides were not well explained by a linear structure derived from crystallography. To interpret these data, molecular dynamics simulations were used to generate 50 000 physically realistic collagen structures for each of the helices. These structures were fitted against their respective scattering data to reveal the best fitting structures from this large ensemble of possible helix structures. This curve fitting confirmed a small degree of non-linearity to exist in these best fit triple helices, with the degree of bending approximated as 4–17° from linearity. Our results open the way for further studies of other collagen triple helices with different sequences and stabilities in order to clarify the role of molecular rigidity and flexibility in collagen extracellular and immune function and disease.

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          Size-distribution analysis of macromolecules by sedimentation velocity ultracentrifugation and lamm equation modeling.

           Peter Schuck (2000)
          A new method for the size-distribution analysis of polymers by sedimentation velocity analytical ultracentrifugation is described. It exploits the ability of Lamm equation modeling to discriminate between the spreading of the sedimentation boundary arising from sample heterogeneity and from diffusion. Finite element solutions of the Lamm equation for a large number of discrete noninteracting species are combined with maximum entropy regularization to represent a continuous size-distribution. As in the program CONTIN, the parameter governing the regularization constraint is adjusted by variance analysis to a predefined confidence level. Estimates of the partial specific volume and the frictional ratio of the macromolecules are used to calculate the diffusion coefficients, resulting in relatively high-resolution sedimentation coefficient distributions c(s) or molar mass distributions c(M). It can be applied to interference optical data that exhibit systematic noise components, and it does not require solution or solvent plateaus to be established. More details on the size-distribution can be obtained than from van Holde-Weischet analysis. The sensitivity to the values of the regularization parameter and to the shape parameters is explored with the help of simulated sedimentation data of discrete and continuous model size distributions, and by applications to experimental data of continuous and discrete protein mixtures.
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            New developments in the ATSAS program package for small-angle scattering data analysis

            1. Introduction   Small-angle scattering (SAS) of X-rays (SAXS) and neutrons (SANS) is widely used to study the low-resolution structure of diverse noncrystalline systems in physics, materials science and biology (Feigin & Svergun, 1987 ▶). Modern SAS instrumentation, including high-flux dedicated synchrotron radiation and neutron beamlines and advanced laboratory X-ray sources, allows one to collect high-quality experimental data (Hura et al., 2009 ▶; Round et al., 2008 ▶; Teixeira et al., 2008 ▶; Toft et al., 2008 ▶). The hardware developments are accompanied by substantial progress in methods for data interpretation, which are especially noticeable in the analysis of isotropic scattering. One of the most rapidly developing areas of research using SAS is the structural characterization of macromolecular solutions, facilitated by recent advances in analysis approaches. In structural biology, low-resolution shapes of macromolecules are now routinely reconstructed ab initio, and automated procedures to construct rigid-body models of complex particles are well established (Mertens & Svergun, 2010 ▶). The analysis methods developed for biological macromolecules have also been applied to modern nanomaterials research (Bronstein et al., 2010 ▶; Shtykova et al., 2010 ▶), further widening the range of advanced applications of the technique. There are several programs available that focus on different aspects of SAS data processing and analysis from isotropic systems. The IRENA package (Ilavsky & Jemian, 2009 ▶) is based on the proprietary IGOR Pro ( computing environment and is primarily oriented towards data analysis from nonbiological systems; however, certain tools such as Guinier and Porod fits and the pair-distance distribution functions are also applicable for monodisperse solution scattering. The SASfit package ( provides means of analysing and plotting SAS data, calculating the overall structural parameters, and fitting structural models to data from contrast variation experiments. BioXTAS RAW (Nielsen et al., 2009 ▶) is designed for automated and manual reduction and primary analysis of isotropic SAXS data and allows one to calculate the pair-distance distribution functions. Among the publicly available packages, ATSAS (Konarev et al., 2006 ▶; Petoukhov et al., 2007 ▶) is perhaps the most comprehensive collection of tools covering the major data manipulation and interpretation tasks. Since 2003, ATSAS has been downloaded more than 30 000 times by about 4500 users from over 1500 laboratories. As of August 2007, the major ATSAS programs also became accessible online, and this service is now actively used by the community. During 2007–2011, ATSAS programs were cited in about 1100 publications, with over 700 devoted to biological SAS, constituting more than a half of all publications on biological solution SAS worldwide. The ATSAS programs are being constantly developed to widen the functionality and to improve the performance, speed and reliability of the suite. The overall structure of the current ATSAS version (2.4) is presented in Fig. 1 ▶, together with brief descriptions of the functions of the individual groups of programs. The present paper describes the major recent developments in ATSAS, including improvements in the existing programs as well as addition of new programs. The main aim of the paper is to provide a concise description of the new ATSAS features, and we shall therefore give only a brief account of the functionality of the new or improved modules. For detailed descriptions of the existing programs belonging to ATSAS, users are referred to the original papers (see Petoukhov et al., 2007 ▶, and references therein). The novel computational methods employed in the new ATSAS programs together with test cases validating these approaches are presented in detail elsewhere (M. V. Petoukhov, I. M. L. Billas, D. Moras & D. I. Svergun, in preparation). In the present paper we shall also describe the new and improved ATSAS-related services, including multiplatform installers, documentation in the form of an online help, and a web user forum for discussing and resolving the problems occurring when running the software. 2. Primary data processing   2.1. Cross-platform applications with graphical user interface for data manipulation   The first release of the graphical data analysis program PRIMUS (Konarev et al., 2003 ▶) was designed specifically for the Microsoft Windows operating system. From that time there has been a steady increase in demand for versions of PRIMUS that also run natively on alternative platforms (i.e. Linux, Mac). With the release of ATSAS 2.4, the first test version of a cross-platform implementation of PRIMUS is provided, which also includes a cross-platform version of the data visualization utility SASPLOT. The applications are based on the graphical user interface toolkit Qt ( Though the Qt PRIMUS implementation has at present fewer features than its Windows counterpart, basic data visualization in a variety of scaling schemes {e.g. absolute scale, log, log–log, Kratky [I(s)s 2 versus s] and Porod [I(s)s 4 versus s]} is provided. Here, I(s) is the scattering intensity and s is the scattering vector magnitude, defined as s = 4πsinθ/λ, where λ is the wavelength and 2θ is the scattering angle. Advanced zooming and panning of the canvas is available within the data manipulation screen of Qt PRIMUS. As in the original implementation, basic operations for file manipulation and processing are present, including averaging, subtraction, adjustment, scaling and merging of data sets. The new PRIMUS can load a (virtually) unlimited number of files, compared to the previous limitation of 12, and keeps a list of recently used files for quick access. Fig. 2 ▶(a) shows the Qt PRIMUS data analysis window on Linux with one loaded data file. The ‘Tools’ menu currently allows (i) estimation of the radius of gyration (Fig. 2 ▶ b), where the AUTORG utility (Petoukhov et al., 2007 ▶) is used to obtain an initial estimate automatically, and (ii) computation of the distance distribution function P(r), i.e. a front end for the indirect Fourier transformation program GNOM (Svergun, 1992 ▶). Interactive monitoring of GNOM results is provided where both the computed P(r) function and the fit to the data are displayed side by side (Fig. 2 ▶ c). Both plots are updated in real time as the user adjusts the fitting parameters (e.g. D max, the number of data points, and the regularization parameter, α) and the quality of the solution using perceptual criteria is displayed. This visualization makes the use of GNOM much more intuitive and in some cases it helps to refine the results obtained by automated processing. Additional tools are presently being incorporated to both reach and improve upon the full functionality of the original Windows-based application. The new SASPLOT provides the basic plotting capabilities of the ATSAS file formats (e.g. *.dat, *.int, *.fit and *.fir), and, like PRIMUS, supports multiple scaling schemes and zooming/panning. An improved configuration of the plot canvas and export capabilities to various image formats are provided. 2.2. Automated merging and extrapolation to infinite dilution   In most structural studies of macromolecular solutions using SAS it is indispensible to remove the scattering contribution due to interparticle interactions and to extrapolate the data to infinite dilution. Manual procedures for the merging and the extrapolation of multiple SAXS data sets are available (e.g. using the ‘Zerconc’ option in PRIMUS), but such an interactive step of course can not be incorporated into automated pipelines. A new program, AUTOMERGE, has been designed for automatic extrapolation and merging of several data sets collected on the same sample at different solute concentrations. AUTOMERGE scales a set of input scattering profiles to obtain a reliable profile overlap and checks that the sample identity is qualitatively consistent across the series (i.e. the scattering patterns at higher angles coincide well). It further determines the intensity extrapolated to infinite dilution assuming that there exists a linear relationship between the intensity and solute concentration, the ‘concentration effect’, represented as Here is the scattering intensity at a concentration and is a term describing the concentration effect (which is defined by intermolecular interactions and does not depend on the concentration at the considered range). AUTOMERGE starts by finding the optimal fitting range where most scattering profiles match after appropriate scaling, and the scaled files are used for a pointwise extrapolation to zero concentration (Feigin & Svergun, 1987 ▶). The validity of the extrapolation to zero concentration is controlled by diagnostic tools that compare expected output with the actual estimate. The primary quality check of the extrapolation is performed by comparison of the radius of gyration ( ) value for the extrapolated curve and the linear extrapolation of values from all input profiles. Additionally, a check on the pointwise error of linear extrapolation is performed, using standard procedures for least-squares approximation. The information gain is also estimated from the difference between an extrapolated point and any of the input points across a region of the extrapolated curve, where the minimum difference is larger than that expected for a numerical error of extrapolation. The extrapolated curve is merged with the pointwise averaged curve by choosing a merging point within the optimal fitting range. More details of the AUTOMERGE algorithm will be given elsewhere (M. Gajda & D. I. Svergun, in preparation). 2.3. Automated determination of the particle volume and molecular mass   The molecular mass (MM) of the particle is one of the major overall parameters that can be directly deduced from the experimental solution scattering data. This parameter allows one to determine the oligomeric state of homomultimers at given conditions or reach conclusions about the possible complex formation for a mixture of several distinct components. The MM is obtained from the forward scattering of the sample (by comparison with a reference, e.g. of bovine serum albumin), which is normalized by the sample concentration c, so that the accuracy of the MM is limited by the reliability of the measured concentration c. In some cases obtaining an estimate of c is difficult (e.g. for proteins containing few aromatic residues), and the typical accuracy of the MM determination in practice is about 10–15% (Mylonas & Svergun, 2007 ▶). Alternatively, the MM may be estimated from the scattering data based on the excluded (i.e. hydrated) particle volume. The latter is computed without normalization of the intensity (Porod, 1982 ▶) from the experimental data, and the MM can be assessed from provided the partial specific volume and hydration of the particle are known. To compute the value, an appropriate constant [A in equation (2)] has to be subtracted from each data point to force the decay of the intensity at higher angles following Porod’s (1982 ▶) law for homogeneous particles. This procedure yields a ‘shape scattering’ curve and corrects for the unwanted scattering contribution from the internal structure. Direct use of equation (2) to obtain is difficult as the results may strongly depend on the experimental data range ( , ), and moreover, the estimation of A is a nontrivial procedure as a result of noise. However, an enforced decay of the intensity at higher angles allows one to extrapolate the scattering curve to infinity and therefore to diminish the inaccuracy of the integral calculation in equation (2). An empirical correction factor for the calculation of the Porod integral given the limited integration range was devised by Rolbin et al. (1973 ▶). The exact relationship between MM and varies for different proteins depending on a combination of several factors, e.g. particle anisometry, flexibility etc. To design an algorithm for a reliable automated calculation of , a processed scattering intensity [e.g. that produced by the program GNOM (Svergun, 1992 ▶)] is used instead of the raw experimental data. The major aim of the present algorithm was not to provide the most accurate evaluation of but instead to devise the best strategy for an automated calculation of the value yielding the most stable ratio to MM in terms of the lowest standard deviation of the calculated MM compared to the expected value. For this purpose, atomic models of 53 proteins ranging from 14 to 500 kDa were taken from the Protein Data Bank (PDB; Bernstein et al., 1977 ▶) (of these, 34 and 11 proteins were solved by X-ray and electron crystallography, respectively, and eight were obtained by NMR), and their theoretical scattering intensities were computed using the program CRYSOL (Svergun et al., 1995 ▶). It was found (see supplementary materials1) that the scattering data range up to about is optimal for a reliable computation of . This upper limit in most cases approximately corresponds to the second minimum in the Porod plot [ versus ]. This range is also suitable for the automated determination of the particle maximum size and the P(r) function as well as evaluation of the processed back-transformed intensity using the program AUTOGNOM (Petoukhov et al., 2007 ▶). Using this interval, the average ratio between MM and is 0.625, yielding an accuracy of the MM estimate nearing 20%, without clear systematic correlation between the ratio, the size of the protein and its anisometry (see supplementary materials). Based on this approach the program AUTOPOROD was developed, which (i) automatically runs the AUTORG (Petoukhov et al., 2007 ▶) and AUTOGNOM (Petoukhov et al., 2007 ▶) tools to find the first good point in the data (i.e. the closest-to-the-origin angular interval displaying a valid Guinier behaviour) and the value according to Guinier’s law and to generate the regularized profile, (ii) determines and subtracts the appropriate background constant A to enforce the Porod behaviour, and (iii) evaluates using the data range from to and computes the MM employing the above parameters. Recently, a web portal ‘SAXS MoW’ was introduced (Fischer et al., 2010 ▶), which employs the Porod volume to obtain an assessment of MM. The portal features a convenient user interface, where the scattering data pre-processed by GNOM can be uploaded. The angular range over which to estimate the volume is selected interactively and the MM is calculated using an empirical ratio. In its present form, no constant subtraction is performed, which could make the results sensitive to possible deviations at higher angles (e.g. as a result of variations in the background scattering). Overall, MoW appears to be a useful interactive tool, whereas AUTOPOROD is designed for both interactive use and as a component of automated pipelines. The automated tools mentioned above enable data processing without human intervention and can be employed in pipelines for the primary data analysis. Additional modularized tools for data manipulation are also distributed as a part of the ATSAS package. These tools include (i) DATOP, a utility to perform operations on data files in various formats, e.g. addition or subtraction of two files, multiplication by a constant etc., (ii) DATCMP, an application to compare two data files in various formats, and (iii) DATAVER, a tool to average two or more data files, again in various file formats. Thanks to their modularity, the output of one application may be directly transferred into the input of another application, allowing for an easy construction of customized workflows. Fully automated pipelines employing all the presented modules are currently running at the SAXS beamlines of EMBL in Hamburg and also at the ID14-3 beamline at ESRF in Grenoble. The modularized tools are based on the libsaxsdocument library, which was made available under the GNU public license LGPLv3, and the source codes can be obtained from Support for new file formats can easily be added, making the pipelines customizable for other instruments. 3. The use of structural models from complementary methods   In this section, improvements in the programs to use the models provided by complementary structural methods, including X-ray crystallography (MX), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and electron microscopy (EM), are presented. 3.1. X-ray and neutron scattering calculation from high-resolution structures   The programs CRYSOL (Svergun et al., 1995 ▶) for X-rays and CRYSON (Svergun et al., 1998 ▶) for neutrons evaluate the solution scattering from macromolecules with known atomic structure and fit a predicted curve to experimental scattering data by minimizing the discrepancy (Feigin & Svergun, 1987 ▶) where c is a scaling factor, N is the number of points and σ denotes the experimental errors. In the fitting process, the excess scattering density of the hydration shell, the average atomic group radius and the related total excluded volume can be adjusted. With the recent progress in high-resolution structure determination and advances in structure prediction and docking algorithms, tremendous numbers of structural models are becoming available. The screening of multiple models against experimental scattering data (typically SAXS) is often performed to select the best configuration in solution. The performance of these programs is crucial when applied to large numbers of structures and to deal with the increased number of angular data points in scattering profiles resulting from the improved resolution of detectors employed at the modern SAXS beamlines (e.g. PILATUS from DECTRIS; In order to speed up CRYSOL calculations, experimental scattering intensities and associated errors are automatically remapped into a sparser grid for the search of the best fitting parameters. Depending on the number of experimental points, the regridding operation speeds up the fitting procedure by up to a factor of five. The final fits are recalculated for the optimum parameters for the original experimental data points. Practice shows that in some cases (e.g. as a result of buffer mismatch) the higher-angle positions of the scattering data may contain systematic deviations, which can be accounted for by subtraction/addition of a constant term to the experimental data. An option of background constant adjustment has been added to CRYSOL to allow for the correction of such over- or under-subtracted buffer signal. A linear least-squares minimization with boundaries (Lawson & Hanson, 1995 ▶) is used to find the scaling coefficient and the background constant value when fitting a theoretical curve to experimental data. Typically, CRYSOL and CRYSON skip all H atoms present in the PDB files and instead make an assignment of the number of bound H atoms for each atomic group based on the chemical compound library ( in order to compute the scattering. If a full-atom model containing all H (or deuterium) atoms is available, the user has the option to take all the atoms ‘as is’, which can be specified in both interactive and batch modes [in the latter case the input parameters are specified on the command line (Konarev et al., 2006 ▶)]. Since the remediation of the PDB archive in 2007–2008 ( the nomenclature of many heteroatoms had been changed, and the assignments of bound hydrogen to an atom became ambiguous, such that the hydrogen assignment may be incorrect in some cases. To resolve this problem, both the new (after version 3.1) and the old (before version 3.0) PDB formats are now supported. By default, the new format is assumed, but the user can also enforce the old format by using the ‘/old’ key in the command line input. 3.2. The use of EM maps   SAXS data are often used for validation and comparison with electron microscopy (EM) reconstructions (Andersen et al., 2006 ▶; Tidow et al., 2007 ▶; Vestergaard et al., 2005 ▶). To conveniently work with EM models we developed a program EM2DAM (electron microscopy density map to dummy atom model), which converts an EM density map into a bead model in a PDB-like format (Bernstein et al., 1977 ▶). The latter model can be used for the calculation of the theoretical intensity and fitting to experimental scattering curves, e.g. using CRYSOL. If the EM map file follows the MRC format (Crowther et al., 1996 ▶), the user should only supply the threshold value defining the particle in the EM map, while all other parameters (number of voxels, voxel size etc.) are extracted from the header of the MRC file. It is also possible to read other formats [CCP4 (Collaborative Computational Project, No. 4, 1994 ▶), SPIDER etc.], by specifying these parameters in the interactive mode. The EM-based dummy atom model can also be mildly refined. If the ‘--damform’ option is selected, the resulting model can be used as an initial search volume in DAMMIN (Svergun, 1999 ▶), whereby the surface beads (within a user-specified cutoff) can change their phase from particle to solvent during DAMMIN refinement while the core beads remain fixed. 4. Evaluation of multiple SAS-based reconstructions   Reconstruction of the three-dimensional structure from the one-dimensional scattering curve is generally ambiguous even at low resolution. Multiple runs of Monte Carlo-based minimization programs are needed to assess the uniqueness. One of the first attempts to analyse the convergence of multiple solutions was implemented in the program DAMAVER (Volkov & Svergun, 2003 ▶) for the post-processing of ab initio bead models. Based on a normalized spatial discrepancy (NSD; Kozin & Svergun, 2001 ▶) between individual models, the most typical model (having the lowest average NSD with respect to all the others) is selected. The outliers (with a significantly higher average NSD) are also identified and discarded. The remaining models are superimposed with the most typical one and averaged. The excluded outliers (which also fit the scattering data and fulfil other modelling restraints) may, however, provide alternative solutions, helping one to better evaluate the non-uniqueness, or, even worse, these ‘outliers’ may be the true positives. In a more versatile approach implemented in the program DAMCLUST, none of the models are discarded and instead all are clustered into groups, such that each group contains similar models (Fig. 3 ▶ a). The NSD is still used as a measure of dissimilarity between ab initio low-resolution structures; however, for clustering of rigid-body models with one-to-one correspondence between the atoms a root-mean-square deviation (r.m.s.d.) could also be applied. The evaluation of the effective distance (dissimilarity) between two clusters or a single model and a cluster as well as the optimal choice of the number of clusters is performed according to the algorithm proposed by Kelley et al. (1996 ▶). For each cluster, the most typical model is then selected and the averaged shape is built. Comparison between the representatives of individual clusters provides an idea of the possible ambiguity of the reconstruction. DAMCLUST can be used to analyse the ab initio models as an alternative to DAMAVER (especially useful for symmetric reconstructions, where the diversity of the models may be high), but also as a tool to clusterize the rigid-body models obtained by programs like SASREF or BUNCH (Petoukhov & Svergun, 2005 ▶). The program SUPCOMB (Kozin & Svergun, 2001 ▶) for the alignment of two arbitrary low- or high-resolution models by minimizing the NSD dissimilarity measure has been updated, allowing one to take symmetry into account. Particularly, in the case of Pn symmetry and given the same direction of the n-fold symmetry axis for both models, the adjustments include only rotations and translations along this axis to preserve the common symmetry. For Pn2, superposition is done simply by the alignment of the corresponding symmetry axes of the two models. This feature enables one to keep the original symmetry in the averaged models generated by DAMAVER and DAMCLUST. The use of symmetry also improves the performance as fewer parameters are to be optimized during the alignment. 5. Analysis of equilibrium mixtures   5.1. Mixtures with known scattering profiles of individual components   For polydisperse systems without interparticle interactions, the scattering profile is a linear combination of the scattering intensities of individual components, weighted by their volume fractions (Koch et al., 2003 ▶): If the scattering patterns of all the mixture components are known, the volume fractions can be directly computed from SAS data. The program OLIGOMER (Konarev et al., 2006 ▶) implements a non-negative linear least-squares algorithm (Lawson & Hanson, 1974 ▶) to find the volume fractions minimizing the discrepancy [equation (3)] between the predicted composite curve and the experimental data. OLIGOMER requires an input file containing the intensities from individual components (‘form factors’). Manual preparation of such a file may be a cumbersome procedure, especially if data from heterogeneous models are to be put together. The program FFMAKER was developed to facilitate the creation of such a form-factor file. It is possible to combine the scattering intensities coming from different sources: (a) the theoretical scattering intensities from high-resolution PDB structures calculated by CRYSOL (Svergun et al., 1995 ▶), (b) the experimental scattering curves and (c) the regularized (and desmeared if necessary) scattering curves obtained by GNOM (Svergun, 1992 ▶). FFMAKER can be run in interactive or batch mode, and for the latter the most important parameters can be supplied as arguments on the command line. FFMAKER provides also an option to evaluate multiple scattering intensities from an NMR ensemble stored in a single PDB file. 5.2. Accounting for polydispersity in three-dimensional modelling algorithms   The requirement of monodispersity is a crucial prerequisite for a reliable three-dimensional model reconstruction from solution scattering data. In many cases monodispersity can be achieved by suitable preparation and handling of the sample or, for example, by using online high-performance liquid chromatography purification (Jensen et al., 2010 ▶). Some samples, however, remain polydisperse despite all efforts, which makes a structural interpretation very difficult, even for well behaved systems with specific interactions. Typical examples are dynamic equilibria between monomers and higher oligomers in the case of single species or between bound and free components for low-affinity transient complexes. With rare exceptions (Blobel et al., 2009 ▶; Vestergaard et al., 2007 ▶), the options for the analysis of mixtures have been rather limited. Usually, it is only possible to predict the volume fractions of individual components if the models or scattering curves of all pure components are available (e.g. with OLIGOMER; see previous section). In some cases, one could try to perform three-dimensional modelling of the dominant component while neglecting the presence of the minor species (which however leads to systematic errors and possible misinterpretations). A novel option to account for dynamic equilibria was included in the ATSAS programs for both ab initio and rigid-body modelling (Fig. 3 ▶ b). The ab initio program GASBOR represents the protein structure using a fixed number of dummy residues (DRs) and uses a simulated annealing (SA) protocol to obtain a spatial distribution of DRs that fits the experimental data (Svergun et al., 2001 ▶). The original version of GASBOR reconstructs the shape assuming that the data correspond to a monodisperse system. The program was modified so that while fitting the data from the presumed homomultimer some fraction of a monomer is allowed. Assuming a symmetric quaternary structure of the multimer (where the symmetry group is defined by the oligomeric state, e.g. P2 for a dimer, P3 for a trimer etc.), the structure of the monomer is defined just by the asymmetric part of the entire DR ensemble. The interconnectivity is then required not only for the multimeric DR model but also for the DR portion forming the monomer. In the DR condensation procedure, the scattering intensities of the multimer and the monomer are computed from appropriate sets of DRs and the resulting profile from the mixture is computed as their linear combination. The volume fractions of the two components are defined by the least-squares fitting of the experimental curve using equation (4). Additionally, there is an option to provide the volume fractions (if they are known from other considerations), such that they will be fixed in the modelling. The feasible range of the volume fraction of the monomer for the reliable shape reconstruction is from about 0.2 to about 0.8 (independently of whether the fractions are fixed or not). Here, the lower limit is a result of the small contribution of the monomer intensity at lower volume fraction and the upper limit is explained by the need to estimate the maximum size of the oligomer, which is rather problematic at higher content of the monomers. The accuracy of the estimated volume fractions in our tests was typically about 15%. The rigid-body modelling program SASREF (Petoukhov & Svergun, 2005 ▶) employs SA to position atomic models of individual subunits with respect to each other by moving and rotating them, so that an interconnected assembly without steric clashes is formed, while minimizing the discrepancy between the experimental SAS profile of the complex and the computed curve. The ability to account for possible polydispersity was added to SASREF in a yet more general way than that for GASBOR. The modelling was not limited to a multimer–monomer mixture, but instead arbitrary subsets of subunits can be selected as additional components (dissociation products). During the SA-driven modification of the mutual subunit arrangement, the experimental scattering curve is decomposed into the intensities computed from the entire multisubunit complex and from the specified subcomplex (e.g. a scenario is possible when a ternary complex partially dissociates into a binary part and a free third component). The volume fractions of the bound and the dissociated states in the mixture are determined by linear least-squares fitting, similar to the above ab initio case. The approach is useful even for very low affinity complexes with the volume fraction of the dissociated species within 0.90–0.15. The two generalized programs called GASBORMX and SASREFMX are available in the ATSAS 2.4 release. More detailed descriptions of their algorithms along with the test examples, assessment of the performance and limitations are presented elsewhere (M. V. Petoukhov, I. M. L. Billas, D. Moras & D. I. Svergun, in preparation). 6. Modelling of flexible systems   6.1. A library of random loops   High-resolution atomic models of proteins obtained by MX or NMR often lack some portions of the polypeptide chains. Typical examples are multidomain proteins with linkers, which are often split into individual domains to facilitate crystallization, or disordered regions (e.g. termini) not seen at high resolution owing to flexibility. Still, the regions missing in the high-resolution models do contribute to the scattering of the macromolecule in solution and their approximate configurations can be reconstructed (Petoukhov et al., 2002 ▶; Petoukhov & Svergun, 2005 ▶). During such modelling, precise conformations of the missing terminal loop or interdomain linker are not required but approximate ‘placeholders’ should be added to the model to adequately compute the scattering intensity from the entire molecule. The use of pre-defined placeholders to connect individual domains would allow us to significantly speed up the calculations of rigid-body modelling algorithms. However, creation of native-like linkers with the given properties (i.e. length in terms of number of amino acids and end-to-end distance) is a time-consuming task. A program RANLOGS (random loop generator and sorter), for generation and sorting of backbone-like loops of up to 100 amino acids in size, has been developed. As the loops generated are placeholders for either structured or less unstructured portions of the protein, the loops were generated de novo, without relying on any existing structures in the PDB. RANLOGS employs a simplified Cα-only representation of the loop, which is sufficient for the scattering intensity computation utilizing a dummy residues approach (Svergun et al., 2001 ▶). The backbone is generated by a consecutive addition of Cα atoms at random positions with a 3.8 Å distance to the preceding one, while fulfilling two requirements: absence of steric clashes (distance to non-neighbouring Cα atoms must be more than 4 Å) and compliance of bond and dihedral angles with allowed angle combinations in a quasi-Ramachandran plot (Kleywegt, 1997 ▶). RANLOGS creates a pool of linkers of the sequence lengths within the specified range binned into the possible end-to-end distances (with the default discretization of 2 Å). For each combination of sequence length and end-to-end distance, several (typically 20) distinct random loops are selected. Such a sorted pool is convenient for the insertion of random loops between two anchor points with a pre-defined distance. 6.2. Rigid-body modelling combined with addition of missing fragments   Several approaches have been developed in recent years for the modelling of multisubunit complexes and multidomain proteins against solution scattering data (Bertini et al., 2010 ▶; Petoukhov & Svergun, 2005 ▶; Pons et al., 2010 ▶). The efficiency of these approaches has been demonstrated in a number of applications to complicated biological systems (Boczkowska et al., 2008 ▶; Gherardi et al., 2006 ▶; Niemann et al., 2008 ▶; Petoukhov et al., 2006 ▶). The program SASREF operates with atomic models only and does not account for missing residues. In BUNCH (Petoukhov & Svergun, 2005 ▶), a multidomain protein may contain rigid domains with known structure connected by chains of DRs playing the role of missing flexible linkers. SA is employed to find the optimal arrangement of the domains and probable configuration of DR linkers fitting the SAXS data whereby the conformational space is explored by random rotation of model portions around randomly selected DRs. The two approaches have a broad range of individual applications; however, a number of systems require a combination of these, for example, complexes consisting of multiple subunits where one or more components have missing fragments of noticeable length. In such a case neither SASREF nor BUNCH are applicable in their original form. SASREF could not be applied as it does not account for missing portions, and BUNCH can only handle one polypeptide chain (per asymmetric part). A new approach implemented in the program CORAL (complexes with random loops) has been developed to fill this gap (Fig. 3 ▶ c). CORAL, similarly to SASREF, translates and rotates the atomic models of individual domains belonging to multiple components of the complex. The difference is that these rearrangements are not fully random: the distances between the N- and C-terminal portions of the subsequent domains belonging to one chain are constrained. For this purpose a library of self-avoiding random loops composed of DRs is generated for the linker lengths from 5 to 100 amino acids using the RANLOGS tool, sampling 20 structures for every possible end-to-end distances for the given length with the binning step of 2 Å. When a domain is moved in CORAL its new position is examined by querying the library; if a linker of appropriate length to connect this domain with the preceding/following one cannot be found, then such a movement is rejected. If the query is successful the corresponding random loop is inserted as a placeholder of the missing linker and its contribution is added to the computed scattering intensity of the system and to the target function (e.g. overlaps, contact restraints etc.). C- and N-terminal portions of the subunits, if missing, can also be randomly selected from the library, but they do not constrain the associated domain motion. A feature of consorted motion of domains (missing in SASREF and BUNCH) is introduced so that the selected domains keep their mutual arrangement while changing their position and orientation with respect to the rest. This feature is useful, for example, when there are several known oligomerization interfaces in one system. 6.3. Characterization of conformational variability by SAXS   SAXS is one of a few structural methods applicable to flexible biological systems including intrinsically disordered proteins and multidomain proteins with flexible linkers (Bernadó et al., 2007 ▶; Bernadó, 2010 ▶; von Ossowski et al., 2005 ▶). For these systems, interpretation of the scattering data in terms of a single model is not feasible because of significant conformational polydispersity. In the ATSAS package, quantitative analysis of such systems is performed using the ensemble optimization method (EOM; Bernadó et al., 2007 ▶), which allows for a co-existence of multiple conformers in solution. In EOM, the analysis of a potentially flexible system using scattering data is carried out in two steps: (1) A large pool of random configurations (genes) is first generated by the program RANCH, utilizing high-resolution models for regions of known structure when available and DRs for the flexible segments. (2) Ensembles of candidate conformations (chromosomes) are selected from this pool by a genetic algorithm, GAJOE, such that the average computed scattering over the ensemble fits the experimental scattering data (Bernadó et al., 2007 ▶). If the distribution of the models in the selected ensembles is as broad as that in the initial random pool, the protein is likely to be flexible; obtaining a narrow distribution peak suggests that the system is rigid (Bernadó, 2010 ▶). Furthermore, the position of the distribution of a selected ensemble relative to the pool provides an indication of the degree of compactness or the extended nature of the system. In the new release, accounting for requests from the user community, the pool generation procedure in RANCH is generalized to include oligomeric multichain proteins (Fig. 3 ▶ d). For such objects, the multimerization interface and/or the structure of the contact domains is often known and EOM is applied to analyse the flexibility of the entire macromolecule while fixing the core belonging to the interface. The latest version of RANCH allows for the generation of random pools of oligomeric multichain conformations, with options for the incorporation of symmetry and the specification of inter-domain contacts. The rigid bodies describing the protein are defined for the initial chain generation, and the oligomerization interface is specified through a set of user-defined contacting residues and distances. A known interface in the case of symmetric multimers can also be maintained by fixing the monomer in the proper position and orientation yielding the correct arrangement of the other monomers when the symmetry operations are applied. RANCH generates a random conformation of the reference chain and applies the symmetry operation to construct the rest of the macromolecule. Models yielding steric clashes are rejected such that the pool contains only physically sound conformations. The original genetic algorithm implemented in GAJOE has also been optimized whereby an automatically adjustable size of the chromosome is used. This allows for an improved assessment of the conformational variability of the ensemble compared to the fixed number of genes in the chromosome. 7. Extension of online services and provision of indexed help tool   7.1. ATSAS documentation   With the further growth and increase of functionality of ATSAS, provision of a convenient user documentation system available on multiple platforms became a necessity. In the present release, a comprehensive documentation of the programs has been recompiled and a browser-like tool, SASDOC, has been developed to present the online documentation. SASDOC is based on the Qt Assistant ( and provides full access to the ATSAS documentation, including built-in full text search, index and bookmarks. Fig. 4 ▶ shows a screenshot of SASDOC presenting the manual of DAMMIF (Franke & Svergun, 2009 ▶). Multiple tabs may show different parts of the manuals. Multiple Qt compiled help files may be bundled into a Qt help collection, which allows one to register additional help files with the ATSAS help collection to include locally available documentation into SASDOC. 7.2. Forum for ATSAS users   A SAXIER forum ( was launched to facilitate exchange of information within the SAS community. The forum is maintained by the ATSAS developers and contains sections devoted to the ATSAS software package as well as SAS-related software and hardware issues. Since its start in August 2007, the forum has become the major web resource for information exchange about the use of SAS data analysis software (primarily ATSAS). In addition, the forum contains sections where SAS courses, workshops and new software releases are announced. In August 2011, the forum had more than 570 registered participants from various institutes from all over the world. Of these participants, 25% were returning users who made three or more posts and thereby contributed 89% of the forum content; 33% of the participants registered to ask a specific question and made only one or two posts each. The forum has over 670 discussions composed of 2200 posts in total (the content is visible for unregistered guests as well). According to Google Analytics in the first half of 2011 the forum had about 2800 unique visitors per month, who made 11 000 page views; this is a 50% increase as compared to the same period of 2010. The main source of the traffic is Google (66%), which shows that the forum is well optimized for search engines. The forum runs on the free phpBB engine ( and uses the free anti-spam ACP module ( The forum provides an efficient way to support the ATSAS users and is becoming increasingly popular in the SAS community. At the same time the forum is an important source of feedback from the users to the ATSAS developers for further improvement of software and hardware in the future. 7.3. ATSAS online access   The online interfaces to the major ATSAS programs are provided at the EMBL web site (, which enables remote job submission to the EMBL computational facilities. Originally (Petoukhov et al., 2007 ▶), the interfaces to the ab initio programs DAMMIN (Svergun, 1999 ▶) and GASBOR (Svergun et al., 2001 ▶) and atomic structure-based programs CRYSOL (Svergun et al., 1995 ▶) and SASREF (Petoukhov & Svergun, 2005 ▶) were provided. The online access was recently opened also to the optimized shape determination algorithm DAMMIF (Franke & Svergun, 2009 ▶), the multiphase bead modelling program MONSA (Svergun, 1999 ▶; Svergun & Nierhaus, 2000 ▶) and the EOM method (Bernadó et al., 2007 ▶). The DAMMIF interface enables multiple runs of the program followed by clusterization of the individual solutions by DAMCLUST. The two latter interfaces are especially convenient for less experienced users to enter the data and parameters for these tools, which require a rather cumbersome input in the standalone versions. Furthermore, the CRYSOL interface now allows one to submit multiple PDB files (in a ZIP archive) to be screened against the same scattering data set. Given the rather high speed of CRYSOL compared to the other ATSAS online tools, its jobs are now going via a fast track, being submitted to a separate queue on the cluster to avoid possible waiting in case of a high load of remote jobs. The applications available via the ATSAS online service are regularly updated in line with the entire package development and they are equivalent to the downloadable standalone versions in terms of functionality. The available program options defined by the choice from the web interface are reduced to the most typical cases in order to keep the online forms simple and convenient to use. The ATSAS online service is rapidly increasing in popularity, with about 200 new users per year and a near-exponential growth of the number of jobs submitted. In the period from August 2007 to the end of 2011, over 800 scientists from about 400 laboratories used ATSAS online and submitted over 40 000 remote jobs. 7.4. ATSAS grid facilities   In view of the rapidly growing number of users and jobs submitted to the ATSAS online service, the currently employed EMBL BioSAXS cluster (120 Opteron CPUs) does not have the capacity to keep up with user demand. Thus, in the framework of the WeNMR project (, the ATSAS online service is being transformed to grid portals to make use of the grid, a large-scale international aggregation of computation and storage resources ( In the progress of the eNMR/WeNMR projects, a number of such portals were already set up for important NMR applications. One of the future aims of WeNMR is to unify access to all portals of the project and include access to major computational SAXS resources. The present ATSAS software package has already been installed on all compute elements that the virtual organization has access to. Users with their own grid certificates registered at can also directly access the various programs of the ATSAS suite and use them for their own computations, independent of the portals. 8. Conclusions   In the present paper, only major recent enhancements in ATSAS were described. Most of the ATSAS programs are being constantly developed, and we are leaving aside some minor improvements. The ATSAS developments described in this communication focus not only on the design of the new algorithms but also on improvements in speed, convenience of use and, wherever possible, automation of the existing programs. The latter is a necessary prerequisite for meeting the challenge of the new brilliant synchrotron and spallation neutron sources able to provide immense amounts of experimental data within a short time frame. We plan to further automate and link together the ATSAS modules to provide a comprehensive SAXS/SANS data analysis system able to generate and rank structural models with minimal user intervention. Supplementary Material . DOI: 10.1107/S0021889812007662/fs5015sup1.pdf Supplementary table and figures
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              Upgraded ESRF BM29 beamline for SAXS on macromolecules in solution

              1. Introduction   Beamline BM29 is the new dedicated station for small-angle X-ray scattering experiments on proteins in solution (BioSAXS) at the ESRF. As part of the ESRF Upgrade program (, it replaces the previous fixed-energy beamline ID14-3 (Pernot et al., 2010 ▶). The BioSAXS endstation is part of the UPBL10 (Upgrade Program BeamLine) complex and as an independent facility is in the direct vicinity of ID30 (MASSIF) and ID29 (MAD) macromolecular crystallography (MX) beamlines. Many of the components of the former ID14-3 experimental hutch equipment have been reused, as were the existing lead hutches at BM29 (previously operating as an EXAFS station). The significant changes were implemented in the new dedicated optics allowing energy tunability (7–15 keV), increased flux (up to 2 × 1013 photons s−1 as compared with 4 × 1011 photons s−1 achieved on ID14-3) and better beam focusing (beam size 500 µm × 500 µm or less) on the detector plane. These improved beam characteristics result in reduced parasitic scattering, shorter exposure times (by a factor of ten) and an extended s-range (0.02–6 nm−1, where scattering vector s = 4πsinΘ/λ) with respect to the previous endstation. BM29 is a fully automated high-throughput beamline dedicated to proteins in solution which facilitates experiments for researchers. Similar high-throughput SAXS systems (Hura et al., 2009 ▶; Martel et al., 2012 ▶) have had significant impact in the structural biology community. Users are learning the ease of use of the beamline and a strong user community is already becoming established. In the past the reaction to SAXS by many experienced crystallographers was that SAXS experiments took too long, required too much effort and offered only little chance of success without expert guidance. Owing in part to the work of the SAXS group of EMBL Hamburg improving the software and the development by the trilateral collaboration between the EMBL Outstations in Grenoble and Hamburg and the ESRF of the automated sample handling and measurement system (in use from 2010), as well as a continuing program of training courses (supported by EMBO), these attitudes are changing. Data collection and cycle times (loading/unloading of sample and capillary cleaning) are short (about 1 min). Therefore, up to a thousand measurements can be undertaken per day, making experiment streamlining a crucial issue. A dedicated beamline control and data acquisition software, BsxCuBE, allows sample-changer control and real-time data display (two-dimensional and one-dimensional). It is connected to a data processing pipeline, driven by EDNA (Incardona et al., 2009 ▶), providing automatic data processing up to ab initio models. Data collection parameters and results are logged and stored in the modified ISPyB database (a laboratory information management system that combines sample tracking and experiment reporting during synchrotron-based MX experiments; Delagenière et al., 2011 ▶). Since September 2012, a Malvern Gel Permeation Chromatography/Size-Exclusion Chromatography (GPC/SEC) system has been integrated into the beamline. A typical data collection using the size-exclusion column takes approximately 30 min (not counting the equilibration time of the column) but depends on the column and flow rate chosen. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) allows improved data quality from complex systems such as membrane proteins or the measurement of individual states from dynamic equilibrium (which would otherwise be impossible). The use of HPLC can be interspersed with the sample-changer robot to optimize beam time. 2. Beamline overview   Beamline BM29 is situated on a dipole (bending-magnet 29) with radiation centred at a −9 mrad horizontal angle which corresponds to a magnetic field of 0.85 T and a critical energy of 20.35 keV. The beam is defined by a water-cooled mask (opening 6 mm × 6 mm) located downstream of the white-beam slits (Fig. 1 ▶). The beamline layout and the majority of beamline components were designed by Pascal Theveneau. The retractable fluorescence screens, polycrystalline diamond for use in white beam, YAGs in monochromatic beam, with diodes installed downstream of each main optical element, allow easy beam alignment and diagnostics. The white-beam absorbers situated upstream reduce the low-energy power content of the beam impinging upon the multilayer (ML) monochromator and also decrease the low energy contamination of the diffracted beams. Beamline details are summarized in Table 1 ▶. A water-cooled double ML monochromator was designed by Muriel Mattenet to a maximum absorbed power of 43 W at the first multilayer (Fig. 2 ▶). Two identical Ru/B4C ML coatings with 2.96 nm period were deposited in-house on two 300 mm-long Si substrates. The monochromator is a ‘nearly’ fixed-exit (beam moves by only 5 µm when changing energy from 7 to 15 keV) UHV-compatible device, scattering in the horizontal plane with a distance of 9 mm between the monochromatic and the incident white beams. A water-cooled beamstop is integrated into the monochromator vessel and serves to block any of the white beam escaping from the first ML but allows the monochromatic beam to pass. The size of the X-ray beam at the entrance of the monochromator is typically 4 mm × 4 mm. The energy is determined by rotation of the whole assembly by a given Bragg angle corrected by refraction (Morawe & Osterhoff, 2010 ▶); the axis of rotation coincides with the surface of the first ML. A fine rotation of the second ML is performed by a pushing jack if needed. No displacement of the second ML with respect to the first one is required as the footprint of the beam travels along the surfaces of both MLs. The ML coatings are designed to attenuate both second and third harmonics. Taking into account the reflectivity of the Rh-coated toroidal mirror located downstream, the total rejection of the harmonics is below 10−4 at 7 keV and below 10−7 at 15 keV. The energy calibration system installed just behind the monochromator can introduce into the beam metal foils of Fe, Cu and Pt, which have been chosen as they have absorption edges inside the accessible energy range (7.112, 8.98 and 11.564 keV, respectively). The focusing element of the beamline is the 1.1 m-long cylindrical toroidal mirror reflecting vertically upwards at a glancing angle of 4 mrad. This Rh-coated mirror is located at 31.2 m from the source and focuses the monochromatic radiation in the detector plane, 13.5 m downstream. Typically, a 4 mm × 4 mm beam is focused to a spot of 0.5 mm × 0.5 mm in the detector plane, being 0.7 mm × 0.7 mm at the sample position (11 m from the mirror). The corresponding beam divergence is 130 µrad. The beam size in the sample plane and beam divergence can be further reduced, at the expense of photon flux, by decreasing the acceptance aperture of the focusing optic. The chromatic smearing effect upon the SAXS data due to the double ML bandwidth Δλ/λ of 1.5% is still negligible for typical measurements (Bolze et al., 2002 ▶). The experimental hutch equipment, i.e. slit box, sample stage, flight tube with motorized beamstop and the Pilatus 1M detector (Henrich et al., 2009 ▶), was reinstalled (in the same configuration as on ID14-3) on a 4.5 m-long marble table of BM29. The maximum photon flux measured at 11 keV (using a calibrated Si diode) at the sample position is 2 × 1013 photons s−1 with a 4 mm × 4 mm white beam hitting the monochromator. To minimize the dose the samples are only irradiated during data collection using a fast experimental shutter (located 4 m upstream of the sample) to define the acquisition time. The transmitted intensity is monitored with a diode integrated in the beamstop and the intensity measured during data acquisition is used for normalization. 3. Ancillary facilities   BM29 users have access to a sample preparation laboratory shared with ID29 visitors. Final sample preparation (dilutions, addition of ligands or altering the concentration of additives) and characterization can be performed immediately prior to the measurement and new samples prepared following feedback from data analysis. A nanodrop spectrophotometer, a cooled centrifuge, an ultrasonic thermal bath and some standard wet-lab equipment (balance, miliQ, ice machine, pipettes, etc.) are available for use. Access to other equipment is possible through the EMBL user laboratory by arrangement prior to the start of the experiment. 3.1. Sample-changer robot   The beamline is equipped with a temperature-controlled automatic sample mounter developed in collaboration with the EMBL. A view of the experimental set-up in the BM29 experimental hutch including the sample changer is shown in Fig. 3 ▶. The robot has already been successfully implemented on ID14-3 and is described by Pernot et al. (2010 ▶). Since September 2010 the device has been in official user mode and has been highly appreciated by all visitors. The robot allows remote access and its software complexity/performance/user-friendliness is under continuous development. New features recently implemented are pipetting (transfer and mixing function) and an online spectrophotometer (allowing measurement of the sample concentration just prior to loading it into the capillary). 3.2. Beamline software   Beamline control and data acquisition software, BsxCuBE (Biosaxs Customized Beamline Environment), has been developed to control the experiments and is shown in Fig. 4 ▶. BsxCuBE displays in real time recorded two-dimensional images as well as the processed one-dimensional curves. Data processing is performed online by three pipelines used subsequently and developed within the EDNA framework to provide the users with feedback and for quality control: (i) upstream data reduction built around pyFAI (python Fast Azimuthal Integration; Kieffer & Karkoulis, 2012 ▶) for data scaling and azimuthal integration, (ii) curve averaging taking into account radiation damage, background subtraction (matched buffer measured before and after each sample) and routine analysis on the resulting scattering curve, (iii) ab initio reconstructions. Radiation damage is assessed by comparison of frames separated in time (typically ten frames per data collection). Frames varying by more than the calibrated threshold are excluded from the averaging and thus from any downstream processing. The output from the pipeline provides calculated parameters of the size (radius of gyration R g, estimated molecular mass and particle volume) plus an initial ab initio model for each construct measured as well as indicators of data quality to aid decision-making for subsequent data collection protocols. Results of the automated analysis are stored in a modified ISPyB database for SAXS. Crosschecks on the stored results give feedback regarding the need for repeat or extra measurements to complete the experiment. If required samples are available in the automated sample changer they can be measured; different concentrations can even be prepared with the pipetting function of the sample changer diluting the available sample with buffer. In addition, the full ATSAS software suite (Petoukhov et al., 2007 ▶) is available on the beamline for manual data processing on a dedicated PC (high-power multicore CPU). 3.3. HPLC integration   Proteins and especially complexes which are unstable can be difficult to measure and often require a final purification step immediately prior to measurement. For very dynamic systems the time available to perform a measurement after this purification is of the order of minutes. By performing purification online this allows a large number of systems to be investigated which would otherwise be impossible. HPLC is a common separation technique used routinely in many structural biology laboratories. The Malvern HPLC system (Viscotek RImax) is installed on the beamline and is integrated into the control and analysis software. Users bring their own compatible columns which are easily exchangeable (choice dependent on sample size). The column and UV measurement are located close to the sample exposure unit in order to minimize tubing. A simple and safe switch between sample-changer robot and the HPLC tubing is possible by a simple valve allowing normal robot mode while the column used is flushed by the corresponding buffer solution. The HPLC system allows separation of aggregates and of different oligomeric species in mixtures in order to measure the individual parts. Measurement of membrane proteins can be undertaken with buffers containing detergent in order to correctly match the free detergent around the sample and in the background for accurate subtraction. Data processing automatically identifies peaks in the scattering and outputs model-independent parameters for all frames and an average of the matching frames from an individual peak. There are, in addition, sensing modules for measurement of the refractive index and light scattering giving independent concentration, molecular weight and hydrodynamic radius to provide extra quality control. 4. Facility access   Access to the BioSAXS beamline is either through the BAG (Beamline Allocation Group) system used widely in the ESRF MX community or through a rolling application system which accepts proposals any time; if the peer-review is successful, beam time can be obtained within two months of its submission. There also exists a joint access for small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) users of Institut Laue–Langevin to enable complementary information provided by SANS (i.e. contrast variation) and SAXS to be obtained in a single trip to the Grenoble EPN campus ( The introduction of a liquid-handling robot, automated data collection and processing pipeline has made SAXS studies on biological macromolecules a high-throughput activity, and now also attracts interest from proprietary clients who can obtain beam time or their sample can be measured very quickly upon availability. 5. Data example   Bovine serum albumin (BSA) and lysozyme (LYS) samples of 30 µl were exposed to X-rays while flowing through the 1.8 mm-diameter quartz capillary using the sample-changer robot for 10 s to avoid radiation damage. Fig. 5 ▶ shows the experimental scattering curves of BSA, LYS and water (inset) at a temperature of 293 K and a wavelength λ of 0.992 Å, as a function of scattering vector s. Data have been scaled to aid their visualization. The BSA averaged curve (from ten frames of 1 s exposure each) with buffer scattering subtracted (the average value of buffer alone measured before and after the sample measurement was applied) is a merge of 11.8 mg ml−1 and 2.2 mg ml−1 solutions. The LYS averaged curve corresponds to 8.6 mg ml−1 solution. Radii of gyration R g of 3.02 nm and 1.4 nm, forward-scattered intensity at zero angle I(0) corresponding to a molecular weight of 72.1 kDa and 14.2 kDa were determined by Guinier analysis, for BSA and LYS, respectively. The molecular weights were obtained by scaling the curves to the scattering of water in units of kDa as described by Orthaber et al. (2000 ▶). The measured background on BM29 is lower than on ID14-3, thus enabling more reliable absolute calibration of scattering intensities. The data collection time is 10 s compared with 100 s at ID14-3, and gives comparable errors for the same concentration of protein. 6. Discussion and conclusions   The newly constructed BM29 endstation has the capability to perform up to a thousand data collections on liquid protein samples per day in a completely automated manner. To ensure the BioSAXS facility at the ESRF remains competitive, the future requirements of users need to be anticipated. Solution SAXS experiments are usually required for systems which are either difficult to crystallize, produce or keep stable for longer periods of time. Therefore, to improve the feasibility of BioSAXS experiments, small sample volumes from ultra-dilute systems must be considered in the future. In order to take advantage of a small beam size with still elevated flux, the sample environment needs to be smaller to reduce the required volume. The first stage towards this is already accommodated in the current design by using a smaller diameter capillary tube (1 mm) in the existing exposure unit. Further reductions in size will be possible by the introduction of microfluidic devices (currently under development at the ESRF and other facilities). There are currently 68 scientific publications reported from data collected at the former BioSAXS beamline ID14-3 after less than three years in operation. We expect the number of BioSAXS publications to increase rapidly with the data collected on BM29.

                Author and article information

                Biochem J
                Biochem. J
                Biochemical Journal
                Portland Press Ltd.
                1 July 2017
                22 May 2017
                16 June 2017
                : 474
                : 13
                : 2203-2217
                [1 ]Department of Structural and Molecular Biology, Darwin Building, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, U.K.
                [2 ]Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110 8th Street, Troy, NY 12180-3590, U.S.A.
                [3 ] Department of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology Center, Tufts University, 4 Colby Street, Medford, MA 02155, U.S.A.
                Author notes
                Correspondence: S. J. Perkins ( s.perkins@ ) or B. Brodsky ( barbara.brodsky@ )
                © 2017 The Author(s)

                This is an open access article published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society and distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY).

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