Coherent diffractive imaging of microtubules using an X-ray laser

Gisela Brändén, Greger Hammarin, Rajiv Harimoorthy, Alexander Johansson, David Arnlund, Erik Malmerberg, Anton Barty, Stefan Tångefjord, Peter Berntsen, Daniel P. DePonte, Carolin Seuring, Thomas A. White, Francesco Stellato, Richard Bean, Kenneth R. Beyerlein, Leonard M.G. Chavas, Holger Fleckenstein, Cornelius Gati, Umesh Ghoshdastider, Lars GumprechtDominik Oberthür, David Popp, Marvin Seibert, Thomas Tilp, Marc Messerschmidt, Garth J. Williams, N. Duane Loh, Henry N. Chapman, Peter Zwart, Mengning Liang, Sébastien Boutet, Robert C. Robinson, Richard Neutze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) create new possibilities for structural studies of biological objects that extend beyond what is possible with synchrotron radiation. Serial femtosecond crystallography has allowed high-resolution structures to be determined from micro-meter sized crystals, whereas single particle coherent X-ray imaging requires development to extend the resolution beyond a few tens of nanometers. Here we describe an intermediate approach: the XFEL imaging of biological assemblies with helical symmetry. We collected X-ray scattering images from samples of microtubules injected across an XFEL beam using a liquid microjet, sorted these images into class averages, merged these data into a diffraction pattern extending to 2 nm resolution, and reconstructed these data into a projection image of the microtubule. Details such as the 4 nm tubulin monomer became visible in this reconstruction. These results illustrate the potential of single-molecule X-ray imaging of biological assembles with helical symmetry at room temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2589
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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