Time-resolved serial femtosecond crystallography is an emerging method that allows for structural discovery to be performed on biomacromolecules during their dynamic trajectory through a reaction pathway after activation. This is performed by triggering a reaction on an ensemble of molecules in nano- or microcrystals and then using femtosecond X-ray laser pulses produced by an X-ray free electron laser to collect near-instantaneous data on the crystal. A full data set can be collected by merging a sufficient number of these patterns together and multiple data sets can be collected at different points along the reaction pathway by manipulating the delay time between reaction initiation and the probing X-rays. In this way, these ‘snapshot’ structures can be viewed in series to make a molecular movie, allowing for atomic visualization of a molecule in action and, thereby, a structural basis for the mechanism and function of a given biomacromolecule.
This dissertation presents results towards this end, including the successful implementations of the first diffusive mixing chemoactivated reactions and ultrafast dynamics in the femtosecond regime. The primary focus is on photosynthetic membrane proteins and enzymatic drug targets, in pursuit of strategies for sustainable energy and medical advancement by gaining understanding of the structure-function relationships evolved in nature. In particular, photosystem I, photosystem II, the complex of photosystem I and ferredoxin, and 3-deoxy-D-manno-2-octulosonate-8-phosphate synthase are reported on, from purification and isolation, to crystallogenesis, to experimental design and data collection and subsequent interpretation of results and novel insights gained.