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Can I solve my structure by SAD phasing? Anomalous signal in SAD phasing

Terwilliger, T.C.; Bunkóczi, Gábor.; Hung, L.Wei.; Zwart, P.H.; Smith, J.L.; Akey, D.L.; Adams, P.D.

Acta Crystallographica. Section D, Structural Biology 72(Pt 3): 346-358

2016

A key challenge in the SAD phasing method is solving a structure when the anomalous signal-to-noise ratio is low. A simple theoretical framework for describing measurements of anomalous differences and the resulting useful anomalous correlation and anomalous signal in a SAD experiment is presented. Here, the useful anomalous correlation is defined as the correlation of anomalous differences with ideal anomalous differences from the anomalous substructure. The useful anomalous correlation reflects the accuracy of the data and the absence of minor sites. The useful anomalous correlation also reflects the information available for estimating crystallographic phases once the substructure has been determined. In contrast, the anomalous signal (the peak height in a model-phased anomalous difference Fourier at the coordinates of atoms in the anomalous substructure) reflects the information available about each site in the substructure and is related to the ability to find the substructure. A theoretical analysis shows that the expected value of the anomalous signal is the product of the useful anomalous correlation, the square root of the ratio of the number of unique reflections in the data set to the number of sites in the substructure, and a function that decreases with increasing values of the atomic displacement factor for the atoms in the substructure. This means that the ability to find the substructure in a SAD experiment is increased by high data quality and by a high ratio of reflections to sites in the substructure, and is decreased by high atomic displacement factors for the substructure.

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