Johann Deisenhofer (2008) - Structural Biology - Quo Vadis?

Johann Deisenhofer (2008)

Structural Biology - Quo Vadis?

Johann Deisenhofer (2008)

Structural Biology - Quo Vadis?

Abstract

Since the 1950s, with the first 3-D structures of DNA and hemoglobin/myoglobin, structural biology has made amazing progress. The Protein Data Bank now holds atomic coordinates for over 50,000 individual macromolecular structures (~43,000 determined by X-ray crystallography, ~7,000 by nuclear magnetic resonance, and ~170 by electron microscopy). Much of the success has been enabled by progress in related fields, such as recombinant DNA technology, computing, synchrotron X-ray sources, superconducting magnets, etc.

While methods development in crystallography, NMR, and Electron Microscopy is continuing, new opportunities for experimental structure determination will arrive when the free electron lasers currently under construction in Stanford (LCLS, 2009) and Hamburg (XFEL, 2013), become operational. Because of the intensity and the time structure of the radiation generated at these facilities, it may become possible to collect X-ray scattering data from a single biological macromolecule within a few femtoseconds. This may lead to a whole new approach to structure determination.

An area in which progress has been slower than many of us hoped is the theoretical understanding of macromolecules, including computer simulations and predictions about their function and their behaviour in response to mutations or to changes in their environment. Here may be the greatest opportunity for todays young generation of scientists to make significant contributions to biomedical science.

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