The SON NMR Large-Scale Facility for Biomolecular Research was created in 1993 as a joint initiative of the Netherlands Foundation for Chemical Research (SON) - the current Council for Chemical Sciences (GB-CW) - of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) in 1998, and the Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research of Utrecht University. In the context of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Framework Programmes of the European Union, the Large-scale Facility has made its advanced NMR infrastructure and specialist expertise available to European guest researchers and research trainees in structural biology, since 1994. In April 2001, halfway through the course of the three years contract described here, we moved to the new Nicolaas Bloembergen building fully dedicated to modern NMR spectroscopy. The NMR spectrometers and auxiliary equipment that are placed in the new building offer a complete range of all currently described high resolution NMR experiments for structural biology and in vivo NMR experiments. Visiting researchers have made use of 7 spectrometers with magnetic field strengths ranging between 360 and 750 MHz for high-resolution biomolecular solution NMR, a 500 MHz wide-bore solid state system for membrane-related research, and a 200 MHz 40 cm horizontal bore in vivo NMR system for in-vivo (macroscopic) NMR experiments. Unique to the infrastructure is the use of two laser systems, a movable argon laser and a new excimer laser that is permanently attached to one of the 500 MHz spectrometers, for which a special light-probe is available.
These laser systems can be used for performing combinations of light and NMR experiments, including Photo-CIDNP. A cryoprobe system was installed in 2002 on one of the 600 MHz spectrometers and has proven to give the expected enhancement in sensitivity of about a factor of three. A 900 MHz NMR spectrometer will be installed in Spring 2003 and will open up new capabilities for structural biomolecular research. In addition to access to spectrometers, the facility offers also access to:
i. the use of the extensive computer network to enable visitors to complement the spectroscopic work by computer calculations and simulations;
ii. laboratory facilities tailored for biomolecular and in-vivo NMR (including laboratory animals and laboratory animal facilities that are available at costs), and;
iii. protein purification and characterization equipment. Simple rooms for overnight stays are available. Additionally, assistance and research expertise are provided to support the research of the users of the facility.
Main results: Over the whole period of three years we received 28 proposals from 24 user groups (63 users). One proposal, however, was rejected by the international selection panel, while for another two proposals preliminary experiments run at the facility showed that the proposed work was not feasible. These proposals were, therefore, in agreement with the proposers withdrawn from the selection procedure. The quantity of access that was offered during the contract was 763 NMR instrument days of which 625 days were charged to the contract, divided as 252, 185, and 188 days over the years 2000, 2001, and 2002, respectively.
Dr. Ir. Nico A.J. van Nuland, NMR Spectroscopy - Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research, Padualaan 8, Utrecht 3584 CH, The Netherlands