Application of the phase extension method in virus crystallography

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The procedure for phase extension (PX) involves gradually extending the initial phases from low resolution (e.g. ~ 8 Å) to the high-resolution limit of a diffraction data set. Structural redundancy present in the viral capsids that display icosahedral symmetry results in a high degree of non-crystallographic symmetry (NCS), which in turn translates into higher phasing power and is critical for improving and extending phases to higher resolution. Greater completeness of the diffraction data and determination of a molecular replacement solution, which entails accurately identifying the virus particle orientation(s) and position(s), are important for the smooth progression of the PX procedure. In addition, proper definition of a molecular mask (envelope) around the NCS-asymmetric unit has been found to be important for the success of density modification procedures, such as density averaging and solvent flattening. Regardless of the degree of NCS, the PX method appears to work well in all space groups, provided an accurate molecular mask is used along with reasonable initial phases. However, in the cases with space group P1, in addition to requiring a molecular mask, starting the PX at a higher resolution (e.g. 6 Å) overcame the previously reported problems due to Babinet phases and phase flipping errors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-140
Number of pages13
JournalCrystallography Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis.


  • Molecular replacement
  • Non-crystallographic
  • Phase extension
  • Phase refinement
  • Symmetry
  • Virus structure


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