Leighton Coates

Neutron Scattering Scientist

Leighton is a senior scientist involved in the development of neutron protein crystallography, his early PhD work at the University of Southampton (UK) involved single-crystal neutron and X-ray diffraction work on the catalytic mechanism of aspartic proteinases. Following a relocation from the UK to the USA in 2005 he started to work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Los Alamos Neutron Scattering Center (LANSCE) as a beamline scientist at the protein crystallography station (PCS). The PCS was a proof of principal pulsed source neutron beamline available to the crystallographic user community by peer review. In 2007 Leighton moved to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to design and construct a macromolecular neutron diffractometer (MaNDi) at the Spallation neutron source (SNS) which  has enabled neutron protein crystallography to study smaller crystals with larger unit cell dimensions. The design, construction, and commissioning of this unique beamline took a total of seven years to complete and has provided a unique resource and capability to the US crystallographic community. Since that time Leighton has actively grown the neutron user community by organizing and speaking in and organizing sessions at the American Crystallographic Association (ACA) annual meeting and other national and international meetings. 

Leighton also studies the structure of potassium channels a class of membrane protein which provide selective transport of ions across cellular membranes using soft X-rays and neutrons. Recently he used the newly commissioned I23 soft X-ray beamline at the Diamond synchrotron (UK) to collect anomalous diffraction data at the potassium absorption edge (3.35 Å) to experimentally determine the occupancy of the four potassium ions within the selectivity filter of a membrane ion channel. This data discriminated between two proposed mechanisms on how potassium ions are transported through the selectivity filter within ion channels. 

Leighton currently serves the crystallographic community as president-elect of the Pittsburgh Diffraction Society (PDS) a not-for-profit organization which promotes fundamental and applied diffraction as well as the exchange of ideas and information concerning such research. The PDS was founded by Professor Surain S. Sidhu who organized the first Pittsburgh Diffraction Conference in 1943. Since that time the PDS has sponsored an annual conference which is held annually, returning to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania every five years. 

2018 Selected Publications 

Langan, P.S., Vandavasi, V.G., Weiss, K.L., Afonine, P.V., Omari, K.E., Duman, R., Wagner, A., Coates,  L. Anomalous X-ray Diffraction Studies of Ion Transport in K+channels. (2018) Nature Communications 9:4540 | DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06957-w

Sullivan, B.,  Archibald, R.,  Langan, P.S.,   Dobbek, H., Bommer,  M., McFeeters,  M.L, Coates, L., Wang,  X.P., Gallmeier,  F., Carpenter, J.M.,  Lynch V., Langan, P. Improving the Accuracy and Resolution of Neutron Crystallographic Data by 3D Profile Fitting of Bragg Peaks in Reciprocal Space. (2018) Acta Crystallographica Section D: Structural Biology 74, 11, 1085-1095

Li, Z., Zhang, X., Wang, Q., Li, C., Zhang, N., Zhang, X., Xu, B., Ma, B., Schrader, T.E., Coates, L., Kovalevsky, A., Huang, Y., Wan, Q. Understanding the pH-Dependent Reaction Mechanism of a Glycoside Hydrolase Using High-Resolution X-ray and Neutron Crystallography (2018) ACS Catalysis, 8 (9), pp. 8058-8069. 

Manzoni, F., Wallerstein, J., Schrader, T.E., Ostermann, A., Coates, L., Akke, M., Blakeley, M.P., Oksanen, E., Logan, D.T. Elucidation of Hydrogen Bonding Patterns in Ligand-Free, Lactose- and Glycerol-Bound Galectin-3C by Neutron Crystallography to Guide Drug Design (2018) Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 61 (10), pp. 4412-4420. 

Langan, P.S., Vandavasi, V.G., Cooper, S.J., Weiss, K.L., Ginell, S.L., Parks, J.M., Coates, L. Substrate Binding Induces Conformational Changes in a Class A β-lactamase That Prime It for Catalysis (2018) ACS Catalysis, 8 (3), pp. 2428-2437.