Application of Hard-X-Ray Free-Electron Lasers for Static and Dynamic Processes in Structural Biology

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The dream of a structural biologist is to see the biological molecule in its native conformation and to follow its structural change during fundamental biological reactions like oxidation, reduction, or excitation energy transfer. Most reactions in biology are dynamic in time domains from pico- to milliseconds. The motivation to build a hard-X-ray free-electron laser came from an in silico simulation of high-energy deposition on single molecules. This chapter reviews the pros and cons of X-ray free-electron lasers (XFEL) and serial femtosecond X-ray crystallography (SFX) over standard macromolecular X-ray crystallography and discusses the successes achieved by XFELs in structural biology to date. It talks about new challenges and prospects of time-resolved studies for ultrafast biomolecular processes, single-particle imaging, and how XFELs can revolutionize the future of structural biology. The success of the low-resolution photosystem I experiment established the premise of SFX and provided the proof of principle for damage-free structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationStructural Biology in Drug Discovery
Subtitle of host publicationMethods, Techniques, and Practices
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781118681121
ISBN (Print)9781118900406
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • electron transfer
  • hard-X-ray free-electron laser
  • photosystem I experiment
  • serial femtosecond X-ray crystallography
  • structural biology
  • X-ray crystallography
  • X-ray free-electron laser

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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