The structure of the Satellite Tobacco Mosaic Virus (STMV)--one of the smallest viruses known--has been successfully deduced using STMV crystals grown aboard the Space Shuttle in 1992 and 1994. The STMV crystals were up to 30 times the volume of any seen in the laboratory. At the same time they gave the best resolution data ever obtained on any virus crystal. STMV is a small icosahedral plant virus, consisting of a protein shell made up of 60 identical protein subunits of molecular weight 17,500. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that, in contrast to the crystal grown on Earth, the crystals grown under microgravity conditions were viusally perfect, with no striations or clumping of crystals. Furthermore, the X-ray diffraction data obtained from the space-grown crystals was of a much higher quality than the best data available at that time from ground-based crystals. This computer model shows the external coating or capsid. STMV is used because it is a simple protein to work with; studies are unrelated to tobacco. Credit: Dr. Alex McPherson, Univeristy of California at Irvin.