Biological membranes are basically impermeable for ions and polar substances, so that electric voltages (“membrane potentials”) and substance gradients across membranes can be generated and maintained.
It is our aim to understand the function of membrane proteins and their mechanism of action. In addition, most drugs available to treat diseases act on membrane proteins. Therefore structure determination of membrane proteins is extremely interesting both for basic science and for drug development. However, membrane proteins are difficult to study.
The background and methods of membrane protein structure determination and several recent successes of the author’s lab with membrane proteins of potential medical interest will be presented. So far the method of choice has been X-ray crystallography with crystallization as the bottleneck. Because of the progress of single particle electron cryomicroscopy (Nobel Prize 2017) the question has to be discussed whether membrane protein crystallography has become obsolete!