Protein Crystallisation on the International Space Station in APCF, CPCF and PCDF

Jürgen Stapelmann and Peter Lautenschlager

Space Infrastructure Division, ASTRIUM GmbH, An der Bundesstraße 31, D-88039 Friedrichshafen, Germany





The unique environment of weightlessness provides conditions which are in many cases favourable for the growth of protein crystals and for the investigation of the protein growth process.

Protein crystal growth in space is being performed since years to gain better and more perfect crystals for structural investigation. They are needed by academic as well as by industrial application-oriented researchers to understand fundamentals of the protein crystallisation process and to grow perfect crystals at a higher success rate.

The features of facilities built resp. being developed by ASTRIUM under contract of the European Space Agency, (ESA) and the German Space Agency (DLR) are presented.

These facilities are:

APCF (Advanced Protein Crystallisation Facility), a multi-user facility for the performance of protein crystal growth by dialysis, vapour diffusion or free interface technique. APCF is equipped with a video system and a Mach-Zehnder-Interferometer. APCF has been flown among others on ISS 2001 and is being prepared for the seventh mission early 2003.

A new diagnostics facility (PCDF, Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility) is equipped with sophisticated diagnostic tools like video, high resolution microscope, dynamic light scattering device and Mach-Zehnder Interferometer with Phase Shifting Technique. It will also be possible to actively control the growth process by individual variation of the process temperature and the concentration of salt-reagents.

A derivative of APCF, the CPCF (Commercial Protein Crystallisation Facility) was first flown on the "John-Glenn-Mission" in 1998. In 2001 and 2002 CPCF was operated on the ISS in the frame of German - Russian missions.

Information on all three facilities will be provided on the poster and with dedicated facility flyers.