The most important prerequisite and challenge in structural biology research at the atomic level by any method is the availability of sufficiently large amounts of highly purified functional proteins due to the increasing size and complexity of target proteins or protein complexes to be analyzed. Heterologous expression in bacteria, yeast, insect, or mammalian cells combined with many attempts involving different DNA constructs that result in a large variety of protein variants is instrumental to obtain sufficiently high yields. This means high-throughput methods employing robotics and specialized infrastructure are essential to efficiently reach the state of obtaining functional protein and/or crystals for X-ray structure determination. PCUBE ('protein production platform') combines existing infrastructures and know-how of leading European laboratories in bacterial, eukaryotic expression of proteins, in high-throughput crystallization and in libraries design for the effective production and crystallization of macromolecules. The program aims at offering these various state-of-the-art platforms to research groups from EC member and associated states for the efficient production of proteins for their structural studies. Each infrastructure will offer defined procedures for applying for transnational access. Scientific selection committees will give priorities to applications by scientific criteria of excellence only. Researchers from the different sites offering infrastructure are combining efforts to improve the methods in the various areas by collaborating by joint research activities. These include the improvement of the automation for synthesising DNA constructs, for parallel expression, for improved libraries, for the efficient selection of affinity molecules from libraries to particular target proteins as well as developing new methods for crystallization at the nanoliter scale.
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