Tables for
Volume B
Reciprocal space
Edited by U. Shmueli

International Tables for Crystallography (2006). Vol. B. ch. 4.5, pp. 466-467   | 1 | 2 |

Section Introduction

R. P. Millanea* Introduction

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X-ray fibre diffraction analysis is a collection of crystallographic techniques that are used to determine molecular and crystal structures of molecules, or molecular assemblies, that form specimens (often fibres) in which the molecules, assemblies or crystallites are approximately parallel but not otherwise ordered (Arnott, 1980[link]; French & Gardner, 1980[link]; Hall, 1984[link]; Vibert, 1987[link]; Millane, 1988[link]; Atkins, 1989[link]; Stubbs, 1999[link]). These are usually long, slender molecules and they are often inherently flexible, which usually precludes the formation of regular three-dimensional crystals suitable for conventional crystallographic analysis. X-ray fibre diffraction therefore provides a route for structure determination for certain kinds of specimens that cannot be crystallized. Although it may be possible to crystallize small fragments or subunits of these molecules, and determine the crystal structures of these, X-ray fibre diffraction provides a means for studying the intact, and often the biologically or functionally active, system. Fibre diffraction has played an important role in the determination of biopolymers such as polynucleotides, polysaccharides (both linear and branched), polypeptides and a wide variety of synthetic polymers (such as polyesters), as well as larger assemblies including rod-like helical viruses, bacteriophages, microtubules and muscle fibres (Arnott, 1980[link]; Arnott & Mitra, 1984[link]; Millane, 1990c[link]; Squire & Vibert, 1987[link]).

Specimens appropriate for fibre diffraction analysis exhibit rotational disorder (of the molecules, aggregates or crystallites) about a preferred axis, resulting in cylindrical averaging of the diffracted intensity in reciprocal space. Therefore, fibre diffraction analysis can be thought of as `structure determination from cylindrically averaged diffraction intensities' (Millane, 1993[link]). In a powder specimen the crystallites are completely (spherically) disordered, so that structure determination by fibre diffraction can be considered to be intermediate between structure determination from single crystals and from powders.

This section is a review of the theory and techniques of structure determination by X-ray fibre diffraction analysis. It includes descriptions of fibre specimens, the theory of diffraction by these specimens, intensity data collection and processing, and the variety of structure determination methods used for the various kinds of specimens studied by fibre diffraction. It does not include descriptions of specimen preparation (those can be found in the references given for specific systems), or of applications of X-ray diffraction to determining polymer morphology (e.g. particle or void sizes and shapes, texture, domain structure etc.).


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First citationArnott, S. & Mitra, A. K. (1984). X-ray diffraction analyses of glycosamionoglycans. In Molecular biophysics of the extracellular matrix, edited by S. Arnott, D. A. Rees & E. R. Morris, pp. 41–67. Clifton: Humana Press.Google Scholar
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