Synchronous RNA conformational changes trigger ordered phase transitions in crystals

Saminathan Ramakrishnan, Jason R. Stagno, Chelsie E. Conrad, Jienyu Ding, Ping Yu, Yuba R. Bhandari, Yun Tzai Lee, Gary Pauly, Oleksandr Yefanov, Max O. Wiedorn, Juraj Knoska, Dominik Oberthür, Thomas A. White, Anton Barty, Valerio Mariani, Chufeng Li, Wolfgang Brehm, William F. Heinz, Valentin Magidson, Stephen LockettMark S. Hunter, Sébastien Boutet, Nadia A. Zatsepin, Xiaobing Zuo, Thomas D. Grant, Suraj Pandey, Marius Schmidt, John C.H. Spence, Henry N. Chapman, Yun Xing Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Time-resolved studies of biomacromolecular crystals have been limited to systems involving only minute conformational changes within the same lattice. Ligand-induced changes greater than several angstroms, however, are likely to result in solid-solid phase transitions, which require a detailed understanding of the mechanistic interplay between conformational and lattice transitions. Here we report the synchronous behavior of the adenine riboswitch aptamer RNA in crystal during ligand-triggered isothermal phase transitions. Direct visualization using polarized video microscopy and atomic force microscopy shows that the RNA molecules undergo cooperative rearrangements that maintain lattice order, whose cell parameters change distinctly as a function of time. The bulk lattice order throughout the transition is further supported by time-resolved diffraction data from crystals using an X-ray free electron laser. The synchronous molecular rearrangements in crystal provide the physical basis for studying large conformational changes using time-resolved crystallography and micro/nanocrystals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1762
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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