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Posted: Aug 01, 2012
Crystal clarity for protein molecular structure
(Nanowerk News) An EU-funded initiative has integrated Europe's software and infrastructure resources to create a high-tech platform for use in the area of structural genomics.
Biological crystallography (biocrystallography) creates precise three-dimensional (3D) architectural models of biological molecules. As molecular interactions depend on structural sites fitting together, the design of a molecule is key to its function. Armed with a molecule's structure, scientists can predict with accuracy which molecules will interact and what drugs will affect mode of operation.
Bioxhit mobilised all synchrotron facilities with beamlines equipped for macromolecular crystallography. Merged with the cream of software developers in relevant fields, the project aimed to produce a high-throughput pipeline linking the crystallisation of a protein to its 3D structure at an atomic level.
The progress of 178 project tasks – 141 scientific undertakings and 37 training initiatives – were recorded in detail. Science highlights included coupling crystallisation with X-ray data collection and a high-precision, motorised kappa-goniometer (to measure angles). Sophisticated algorithms were developed and a system of remote data collection was instigated. Comprehensive multi-option structure determination is now available.
Major emphasis was placed on automation for a consequent reduction in time for production of each structure. Handling samples, detection of X-ray patterns and model building were all adapted for high-precision automation replacing time-consuming manual steps.
Training activities were a cornerstone of the project. Four advanced training and dissemination centres were created and courses were held at synchrotron centres and communicated to satellite locations to disseminate biocrystallography technologies.
Bioxhit has contributed to making Europe one of the world leaders in the area of X-ray biocrystallography. Integration of this technology with genomics and proteomics will ensure progress in the area of target drug design.