Characterizing pathological imperfections in macromolecular crystals: lattice disorders and modulations

Jeffrey J. Lovelace, Gloria E.O. Borgstahl

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Macromolecular crystal structure determination can be complicated or brought to a halt by crystal imperfections. These issues motivated us to write up what we affectionately call ‘The Definitive Hitchhiker’s Guide to Pathological Macromolecular Crystals: Lattice Disorders and Modulations’. Perhaps the most challenging imperfections are lattice order–disorder phenomena and positional modulations. Many of these types of crystals have been solved, and progress has been made on the more challenging forms. Diagnostic tools and how to solve many of these problem crystal structures are reviewed. New avenues are provided for approaching the solution of incommensurately modulated crystals. There are a good number of case studies in the literature of lattice order–disorder phenomena and crystallographic modulations that make it timely to write a review. This review concludes with a projected pathway for solving incommensurately modulated crystals, personal views of future directions and needs of the crystallographic community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-50
Number of pages48
JournalCrystallography Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020


  • Lattice-translocation defects
  • commensurate
  • incommensurate
  • rotational order–disorder
  • superlattice
  • translational noncrystallographic symmetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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