Fully automatic macromolecular crystallography: the impact of MASSIF-1 on the optimum acquisition and quality of data
Automation is beginning to transform the way data are collected in almost all scientific disciplines. The combination of robotics and software now allows data to be collected consistently and reproducibly, eliminating human error and boredom. This approach has been applied to macromolecular crystallography at MASSIF-1, a fully automated beamline at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). Considerable human effort is still dedicated to evaluating protein crystals in order to find the
... n order to find the few crystals that diffract well or collecting hundreds of data sets to screen potential new drug candidates. The combination of ESRF-developed robotic sample handling and advanced software protocols now provides a new tool to structural biologists. Not only is the beamline used efficiently, running 24 h a day without getting tired, data collection is also performed consistently by an expert system, often better than with a human operator. In this review, we will focus on the impact this level of automation has had on the optimum acquisition of data from crystals of biological macromolecules.