Opportunities and challenges in neutron crystallography
1 CIMR, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 0XY, United Kingdom
2 Institut Laue Langevin, 38042 Grenoble Cedex 9, France
Published online: 1 July 2020
Neutron and X-ray crystallography are complementary to each other. While X-ray scattering is directly proportional to the number of electrons of an atom, neutrons interact with the atomic nuclei themselves. Neutron crystallography therefore provides an excellent alternative in determining the positions of hydrogens in a biological molecule. In particular, since highly polarized hydrogen atoms (H+) do not have electrons, they cannot be observed by X-rays. Neutron crystallography has its own limitations, mainly due to inherent low flux of neutrons sources, and as a consequence, the need for much larger crystals and for different data collection and analysis strategies. These technical challenges can however be overcome to yield crucial structural insights about protonation states in enzyme catalysis, ligand recognition, as well as the presence of unusual hydrogen bonds in proteins.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2020
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