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Europe unites for structural biology

An EU initiative has brought together leading facilities and infrastructure from across Europe to study the structure and function of biological molecules.

Food and Natural Resources
Health

Most cellular functions are carried out by macromolecules like proteins and nucleic acids. Central to their function is their 3D structure, or shape that they fold into. Using advanced instrumentation and analytical techniques, scientists can view changes in macromolecule structures and determine their role in health and disease. The EU-funded BIOSTRUCT-X (Transnational access and enhancement of integrated biological structure determination at synchrotron X-ray radiation facilities) initiative joined 19 partners and 11 facilities with 44 technological installations across Europe to look at biological structures. Since macromolecules cannot be viewed under a light microscope, scientists use indirect imaging techniques like X-ray scattering to reveal the size and shape of the molecule. These techniques require advanced and expensive equipment such as a synchrotron, a type of particle accelerator, to generate the X-ray beams. To provide access to state-of-the-art equipment and technology for the European research community, BIOSTRUCT-X brought together four major X-ray-based techniques under one umbrella. To enhance the synchrotron facilities and services, BIOSTRUCT-X improved protocols to purify, prepare and characterise macromolecules, and provided software including algorithms to analyse structural data. Through such transnational access and cooperation, BIOSTRUCT-X supported 1 156 scientific projects and 1 991 researchers, resulting in over 340 publications in peer-reviewed journals. To cement this unified research community, BIOSTRUCT-X also held 36 networking events across Europe. During these events researchers were trained in different techniques, and shared information and results with each other. By the end of the project, BIOSTRUCT-X had become the leading infrastructural resource for biologists using synchrotron X-ray beams. Software tools, prototypes and kits developed and tested by project collaborators are now available for the scientific community, further strengthening ties and enhancing scientific developments.

Keywords

Structural biology, macromolecules, BIOSTRUCT-X, synchrotron, X-ray beams

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