Priority access for COVID-19 related research proposals
CIISB is committed to the use its resources in response to the emergency situation of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. CIISB ensures that available technologies support primarily researchers in their efforts to study the virus and projects aiming to the development of an effective vaccine or treatment.
New EMBO Core Facility Fellowships
EMBO recently launched Core Facility Fellowships, which will support international training exchanges for staff working in core facilities that provide services to research institutes and universities.
Priority access for research proposals relating to COVID-19 virus
Instruct-ERIC is offering priority access to groups that need to use its structural biology services for projects directly related to COVID-19 viral proteins. Priority access will ensure a faster review of research proposals relating to COVID-19.
What to do when your grant is rejected
Losing out on a grant hurts, but don’t lose heart — average success rates are around 20% among large funders, so grant rejection is common. Discover how to bounce back, find alternative funding and boost your chances of success next time.
Revolutionary cryo-EM is taking over structural biology
The number of protein structures being determined by cryo-electron microscopy is growing at an explosive rate. A report published by Nature on February 10, 2020 says that a revolutionary technique for determining the 3D shape of biomacromolecules is booming. Last week, a database that collects protein and other molecular structures determined by cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM, acquired its 10,000th entry.
Registration for Advanced methods in macromolecular crystallization IX is now open
Proposed deadline for applications for this course which is focused on theoretical aspects of crystal growth process as well as practical work is March 20th 2020.
Instruct-ERIC Training call now open
Call for proposals for Instruct Centre Training Courses to be held in 2020 is now open.
CIISB 2020 - A Short Outlook into the Foreseeable Future in 6654 Characters
On January 31, 2020 CIISB has submitted the final report of the MEYS large infrastructure support project LM 2015043, which financed its operation during the years 2016-2019. The final report contains also a short description and outlook of the CIISB activities in the upcoming period.
Reader's Corner Archive
Integrative Structural Biology of Protein-RNA Complexes
Ribonucleoprotein complexes (RNPs) are central to all processes in the cell. One of the prerequisites to understand how RNPs work is to determine their high-resolution structures. With the recent revolution in cryo-electron microscopy this task has become easier for large RNP machines, such as ribosomes, spliceosomes, and polymerases. However, the transient and highly dynamic nature of many RNPs makes structure determination a challenging task. Thus, an integrative structural and molecular biology approach is required, tackling three key challenges: (1) identification of cognate RNA sequences; (2) collection of structural data by conducting X-ray crystallography, NMR, electron microscopy, small-angle scattering (SAS), and other experiments; and (3) the creation of structural models that integrates all experimental restraints. Given the breadth of expertise required, Janosch Henning et. al. in Structure present an overview of available methods and successful examples with the goal to provide readers with a selection of promising options for structure determination of RNPs.
Structural biology of cell surface receptor-ligand interactions
Plants have evolved unique membrane receptors that interpret native and foreign cues to coordinate plant life and adaptation. This large family of receptor proteins have evolved very diverse ectodomains, acquiring the capacity to sense ligands of very different chemical nature. A mechanistic understanding on how these signaling systems work will help to comprehend and unveil key cell biology questions. The review by Steven Moussou and Julia Santiago in Current Opinion in Plant Biology aims to focus on the latest receptor-ligands interactions and regulatory mechanism that have been structurally characterized, as well as new receptor folds.
Challenges and perspectives for structural biology of lncRNAs-the example of the Xist lncRNA A-repeats
Following the discovery of numerous long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) transcripts in the human genome, their important roles in biology and human disease are emerging. Recent progress in experimental methods has enabled the identification of structural features of lncRNAs. However, determining high-resolution structures is challenging as lncRNAs are expected to be dynamic and adopt multiple conformations, which may be modulated by interaction with protein binding partners. The X-inactive specific transcript (Xist) is necessary for X inactivation during dosage compensation in female placental mammals and one of the best-studied lncRNAs. Recent progress has provided new insights into the domain organization, molecular features, and RNA binding proteins that interact with distinct regions of Xist. The A-repeats located at the 5' end of the transcript are of particular interest as they are essential for mediating silencing of the inactive X chromosome. In this review, recent progress with elucidating structural features of the Xist lncRNA, focusing on the A-repeats is discussed. The experimental and computational approaches employed that have led to distinct structural models, likely reflecting the intrinsic dynamics of this RNA are overviewed. The presence of multiple dynamic conformations may also play an important role in the formation of the associated RNPs, thus influencing the molecular mechanism underlying the biological function of the Xist A-repeats. Alisha Jones and Michael Sattler in Journal of Molecular Cell Biology propose that integrative approaches that combine biochemical experiments and high-resolution structural biology in vitro with chemical probing and functional studies in vivo are required to unravel the molecular mechanisms of lncRNAs.
PEGylated surfaces for the study of DNA–protein interactions by atomic force microscopy
DNA–protein interactions are vital to cellular function, with key roles in the regulation of gene expression and genome maintenance. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) offers the ability to visualize DNA–protein interactions at nanometer resolution in near-physiological buffers, but it requires that the DNA be adhered to the surface of a solid substrate. This presents a problem when working in biologically relevant protein concentrations, where proteins may be present in large excess in solution; much of the biophysically relevant information can therefore be occluded by non-specific protein binding to the underlying substrate. Here we explore the use of PLLx-b-PEGy block copolymers to achieve selective adsorption of DNA on a mica surface for AFM studies. Through varying both the number of lysine and ethylene glycol residues in the block copolymers, Bart Hoogenboom, Alice Pyne et al. show selective adsorption of DNA on mica that is functionalized with a PLL10-b-PEG113/PLL1000–2000 mixture as viewed by AFM imaging in a solution containing high concentrations of streptavidin. They demonstrate – through the use of biotinylated DNA and streptavidin – that this selective adsorption extends to DNA–protein complexes and that DNA-bound streptavidin can be unambiguously distinguished in spite of an excess of unbound streptavidin in solution. Finally, they apply this to the nuclear enzyme PARP1, resolving the binding of individual PARP1 molecules to DNA by in-liquid AFM.
More than Proton Detection—New Avenues for NMR Spectroscopy of RNA
This minireview written by Harald Schwalbe, Boris Fürtig and coworkers reports on the development of NMR methods that utilize detection on low-g nuclei (heteronuclei like 13C or 15N with lower gyromagnetic ratio than 1H) to obtain unique structural and dynamic information for large RNA molecules in solution. Experiments involve through-bond correlations of nucleobases and the phosphodiester backbone of RNA for chemical shift assignment and make information on hydrogen bonding uniquely accessible. Previously unobservable NMR resonances of amino groups in RNA nucleobases are now detected in experiments involving conformational exchange-resistant double-quantum 1H coherences, detected by 13C NMR spectroscopy. Furthermore, 13C and 15N chemical shifts provide valuable information on conformations. All the covered aspects point to the advantages of low-g nuclei detection experiments in RNA.
Toward high-resolution in situ structural biology with cryo-electron tomography and subtomogram averaging
Cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) provides unprecedented insights into the molecular constituents of biological environments. In combination with an image processing method called subtomogram averaging (STA), detailed 3D structures of biological molecules can be obtained in large, irregular macromolecular assemblies or in situ, without the need for purification. The contextual meta-information these methods also provide, such as a protein’s location within its native environment, can then be combined with functional data. This allows the derivation of a detailed view on the physiological or pathological roles of proteins from the molecular to cellular level. Despite their tremendous potential in in situ structural biology, cryo-ET and STA have been restricted by methodological limitations, such as the low obtainable resolution. Exciting progress now allows one to reach unprecedented resolutions in situ, ranging in optimal cases beyond the nanometer barrier. Here, Florian Schur reviews current frontiers and future challenges in routinely determining high-resolution structures in in situ environments using cryo-ET and STA.
Chemical cross-linking with mass spectrometry: a tool for systems structural biology
Biological processes supporting life are orchestrated by a highly dynamic array of protein structures and interactions comprising the interactome. Defining the interactome, visualizing how structures and interactions change and function to support life is essential to improved understanding of fundamental molecular processes, but represents a challenge unmet by any single analytical technique. Chemical cross-linking with mass spectrometry provides identification of proximal amino acid residues within proteins and protein complexes, yielding low resolution structural information. This approach has predominantly been employed to provide structural insight on isolated protein complexes, and has been particularly useful for molecules that are recalcitrant to conventional structural biology studies. In this review, Juan D. Chavez and James E. Bruce discuss recent developments in cross-linking and mass spectrometry technologies that are providing large-scale or systems-level interactome data with successful applications to isolated organelles, cell lysates, virus particles, intact bacterial and mammalian cultured cells and tissue samples.
In‐Cell EPR: Progress towards Structural Studies Inside Cells
Exploring the structure and dynamics of biomolecules in the context of their intracellular environment has become the ultimate challenge for structural biology. As the cellular environment is barely reproducible in vitro, investigation of biomolecules directly inside cells has attracted a growing interest. Among magnetic resonance approaches, site‐directed spin labeling (SDSL) coupled to electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy provides competitive and advantageous features to capture protein structure and dynamics inside cells. To date, several in‐cell EPR approaches have been successfully applied to both bacterial and eukaryotic cells. In this minireview, the major advances of in‐cell EPR spectroscopy are summarized, as well as the challenges this approach still poses.