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Introduction to protein crystallography

The Bioinformatics Unit at CBMSO is organizing an introductory course to protein crystallography. It will be conducted by our guest Prof. Celerino Abad-Zapatero, a well-known name in the field.

This mini course will be held at the Aula Ramón Areces (CBMSO) from 12:00 to 14:00 on Monday June 6th, Monday June 13th, and Tuesday June 28th 2011 (please note the change in the last day compared to the original announcement).

The program of lectures is proposed as follows:

  1. Basic notions of crystallography.

    1. Symmetry in Art, Science and Math. Crystal symmetry. Space groups. Unit cell, symmetric unit.
    2. X‐ray diffraction as a tool to unveil internal symmetry of the crystals. Laue, Bragg, Ewald’s sphere, real and reciprocal space.
    3. The Phase problem and its solution. Diffraction theory. The conceptual core of Protein crystallography: MIR, MR.
    4. Fourier synthesis and the real structure determination process.
    5. How to evaluate the quality of a ‘Structure biology paper’ or the quality of the resulting structure.

  2. The practical aspects of protein crystallography.
  3. Crystal growing, data collection, data processing, structure solution, electron density, model building, refinement, validation and structure analysis.

  4. Results: Time permitting, the course will also cover some aspects of protein structure. What is(are) the structure(s) is(are) telling you?
  5. Basic concepts of protein Structure. Primary (Chemistry), Secondary (Basic elements), Tertiary (Basic Folds, PDB), Quaternary (Examples of Oligomeric Structures).


A limited number of books (14) will be available upon request for a discounted price of 15 € to anyone interested. The copies will be signed as a courtesy of the author.

Please, send an email to amorreale@cbm.uam.es if you are interested in buying the book.

Course materials

Please, find below the material to be used during the course:

This material is copyrighted by Cele Abad-Zapatero and The University of Illinois at Chicago. These lectures notes and images are to be used only for its intended use, namely: to accompany the lectures of the course and to facilitate the personal understanding of the material. They are not to be distributed or use for any other purpose. Any other use is illegal. The professional and personal courtesy of the persons attending the lectures is expected.


Dear colleagues of the Protein Crystallography Course, This is a note of encouragement to review the lecture notes from the last two lectures (lectures 3 and 4):

Lecture 3. Theory of diffraction: Review the concepts, particularly the concept of the 'sphere of reflection'. See if you can convince yourself by doing the algebra that 'a point on the surface of the sphere, will automatically satisfy Bragg's law and so a 'spot' (a reflection) will appear on the detector at the corresponding h,k,l and angle'.

Lecture 4. Please, do visit the websites related to Fourier Transform and Fourier synthesis that I detailed in slides 20, 23. You have to convince yourself that the insight of Mr. J.B.J. Fourier is a powerful one and indeed permits to describe/represent any 'shape' function by the combination of sin,cos terms to the appropriate 'resolution' (or detail) by the suitable choice of the correct number of terms. Of course, this notion applies to the function that describes the electron density function in a crystal.

We'll see each other on June 28 for the final and exciting two final lectures:
  • 5. Molecular replacement Solution and Refinement.
  • 6. How to evaluate and judge a structural paper.

Cele biographical sketch

Cele Abad-Zapatero left Spain in 1972 with a Licenciado Degre in Physics from the University of Valladolid, sponsored by a Fullbright Scholarship. He obtained a Ph. D. in Biophysics (Macromolecular Crystallography) at the University of Texas at Austin. He worked in virus/protein crystallography under the mentorship of M.G. Rossmann at Purdue University until 1985. The same year he moved to Abbott Laboratories in Chicago to start a protein crystallography laboratory dedicated to Structure-Based Drug Discovery. He retired from Abbott Labs after more than 22 years and is currently Adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. Further details about his professional interests and other activities can be found at his website (see below).

Current address:
Celerino Abad-Zapatero, Ph. D.
Adjunct Professor of the Graduate Faculty
MBRB Room: 3020. MC870
Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology
Dept. of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy
900 South Ashland Av.
Chicago, IL, 60607
Phone: 312-355-4105
Fax: 312-413-9303
e-mail: caz@uic.edu xtalp1@aol.com (personal)
Website: http://www.uic.edu/labs/caz/index.html

Web design: Alfonso Núñez Salgado