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Abstract

X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) with megahertz repetition rate can provide novel insights into structural dynamics of biological macromolecule solutions. However, very high dose rates can lead to beam-induced dynamics and structural changes due to radiation damage. Here, we probe the dynamics of dense antibody protein (Ig-PEG) solutions using megahertz X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy (MHz-XPCS) at the European XFEL. By varying the total dose and dose rate, we identify a regime for measuring the motion of proteins in their first coordination shell, quantify XFEL-induced effects such as driven motion, and map out the extent of agglomeration dynamics. The results indicate that for average dose rates below $1.06 kGy μs^{−1}$ in a time window up to 10 μs, it is possible to capture the protein dynamics before the onset of beam induced aggregation. We refer to this approach as correlation before aggregation and demonstrate that MHz-XPCS bridges an important spatio-temporal gap in measurement techniques for biological samples.

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