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CrystalDirect® - The new fully-automatic solution for crystal harvesting

Developed in partnership with the EMBL, CrystalDirect® is a fully-automatic crystal harvester which combines high efficiency with strong reliability and multi-selectable functions to harvest a single crystal or a group of crystals.

CrystalDirect

Designed for modern high througput crystallization platform:

-          Crystal harvesting rate: ~1 harvest/min

-          Crystal harvesting success >99%

-         Automatic cryo-protection

-          Compatible with sample changer robot

Integrated Features and efficient tools

-          In situ crystal soaking

-          Sample cryo-protection by liquid removal

-          Web based crystal selection tool (e.g. CRIMS)

-         Multi-selectable harvesting methods: 

  • Single crystal selection in one harvest
  • Multiple crystals selection in one harvest
  • Crystal surgery: single needle crystal selection in one harvest from an agglomerate of crystals

From the left to the right: single crystal selection, multiple crystal selection, single needle crystal selection

CrystalDirect: Multiple Cut Shape selection for crystal harvesting

Examples of cut shapes for crystal harvesting which are integrated in the software menu of CrystalDirect

Harvesting Process

CrystalDirect® uses CrystalDirect-1 plates developed by the EMBL (European Molecular Biology laboratory): they are composed of a ultrathin membrane on which samples are deposited (“hanging drop” type).

The Arinax CrystalDirect robot cuts the membrane around selected crystal(s) by means of laser photoablation (Cipriani et al.,2012). Thereafter the crystal support is fixed on a SPINE sample pin and immediately cryo-cooled.

Thanks to this photoablation laser technology, CrystalDirect® gives also the possibility to separate nested crystals by laser cutting without risk to deteriorate them (crystal surgery).

CrystalDirect-1 plates are fully compatible with standard 96-well plates equipment.

High throughput harvesting process

CrystalDirect® is a fully-automatic system designed for high throughput harvesting that fits perfectly to modern crystallography platforms: CrystalDirect® needs about 1 minute per harvest and reaches this performance with a success rate which is superior to 99 %.

Thought for highly automated workflow, CrystalDirect® is compatible with a large variety of sample changer robots and especially with the Flex ED Robot, developed by the EMBL and distributed by IRELEC-ALCEN.

Integrated cry-cooling process

CrystalDirect® has an integrated cryo-cooling process: just after each harvest, the system will automatically cryo-cool the crystal. The user directly controls the entire operation with the help of the software.

The integration of this step in the automated harvesting process is a considerable improvement of the operating cycle.

Cryo-protection by liquid removal

CrystalDirect® gives the possibility to remove the mother liquor surrounding the crystal. In this way, any risk of mechanical stress to the crystal during the cryo-cooling process is strongly limited. As a result, in most cases it isn't necessary to add cryoprotectant (Pellegrini et al., 2011).

This automatic liquid removal process has a high level of quality (Zander, U., et al., 2016). In addition, the operating time and the repeatability are highly optimized compared to the manual approach. 

In situ soaking

The combination of the CrystalDirect® harvesting robot with CrystalDirect™ plates gives the possibility to add liquid to the crystal with reduced risk of mechanical or chemical stress: a micro aperture is cut in the plate membrane by laser photoablation. A drop of liquid is placed on the aperture and, in this way, the added liquid gradually diffuses into the mother liquor.

Web based selection

Crystallization management software systems that use a sample tracking tool, e.g. CRIMS, give the user the possibility to select crystals mend to be harvested. During this step the user also selects a cut shape and its orientation; all of this from his home laboratory. This information is then transferred to and used by CrystalDirect® to automatically harvest the chosen crystal(s).

Technical specifications:

 CrystalDirect technical specifications

References:

Zander et al., Acta Cryst. (2016). D72, 454–466, Automated harvesting and processing of protein crystals through laser photoablation.

Cipriani et al., Acta Cryst. (2012). D68, 1393-1399 "CrystalDirect: a new method for automated crystal harvesting based on laser-induced photoablation of thin films"

Pellegrini et al., Acta Cryst. (2012). D67, 902-906 "Direct cryocooling of naked crystals: are cryoprotection agents always necessary?"


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