Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Low Temperature Protein Crystallization Growth (JAXA Low Temp PCG) - 12.19.18

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The objective of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Low Temperature Protein Crystallization Growth (JAXA Low Temp PCG) investigation is to grow high quality protein crystals in microgravity. The crystals are returned to Earth to determine protein structures in detail; the structures are used to develop pharmaceutical drugs, and to explore the mystery of our lives. The protein samples are launched to the International Space Station (ISS) by a SpaceX Dragon Cargo Vehicle, and crystallized at 4℃ using the counter-diffusion method.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Izumi Yoshizaki, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Information provided courtesy of the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Izumi Yoshizaki, Ph.D., Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Tsukuba, Japan

Information Pending

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan

Sponsoring Space Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Sponsoring Organization
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2016 - April 2017; September 2017 - April 2020

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the microgravity environment of space suppresses solution flow (convection) and allows protein crystals to grow in a stable environment. Moreover, impurities are not delivered to the crystal surface because there is no convection. As a result, high quality protein crystals are produced.
  • The crystals grown during the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Low Temperature Protein Crystallization Growth (JAXA Low Temp PCG) investigation are returned to Earth, and undergo X-ray structure analyses at synchrotron radiation facilities such as SPring-8. High-quality crystals obtained on orbit exhibit a clear protein structure.
  • Detailed information on protein structures is used for designing new drugs for diseases, and for studying unknown enzyme reactions.

JAXA has more than a decade of experience in protein crystal growth (PCG) investigations. JAXA has established the “Drug-design supporting platform” to contribute to promote national research for “Health and Longevity” and company businesses. In order to facilitate the use of this platform, JAXA designed a total package service, i.e., protein sample characterization, purification, crystallization screening, optimization, microgravity investigation, X-ray diffraction using synchrotron facility, and structure determination. Domestic academic users launch their samples at no charge, on the condition that their research results will be published. It is fee-based for private companies (pharmaceutical companies, bio-ventures, and etc.).

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Space Applications
This research contributes to understanding of how the microgravity environment of space can be used in a productive capacity. Accordingly, JAXA Low Temperature PCG investigation uses space as a laboratory for obtaining high quality crystals. This investigation shows how useful the ISS is for investigations of this type.

Earth Applications
This investigation contributes to the drug discovery process and basic biochemical understanding by obtaining high quality protein crystals.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

JAXA Low Temp PCG Kit containing the protein samples must be kept at a temperature of +4°C. The duration of the investigation should last approximately 30 days in order to ensure the growth of large protein crystals. Loading of the protein samples into the crystallization cells is done in Japan.
The JAXA Low Temp PCG Kit is launched on a SpaceX Dragon Cargo Vehicle. After berthing to ISS, the crew transfers the JAXA Low Temp PCG Kit to the JAXA Kibo Laboratory Pressurized Module. The crew performs operations to initiate protein crystallization, installs the JAXA Low Temp PCG Kit into a Stirling-Cycle Refrigerator (FROST) or other refrigerator, and runs the investigation over 21 days at +4°C. At the completion of the investigation, the crew removes the JAXA Low Temp PCG Kit from FROST (or other refrigerator), and transfers to a SpaceX Dragon Cargo Vehicle for return to Earth. The three-dimensional structure of the protein crystals grown in space are analyzed at a synchrotron facility on the ground.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
JAXA Protein Crystal Growth on the International Space Station

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