Peaking at Atoms: Structural biology
Information about the detailed, atomic-level structure of proteins and other biological macromolecules is essential to defining the mechanistic basic of their regulation and function, and sets up opportunities for effective therapeutic interventions, as in the fight against cancer and malaria.
Just as humans possess an immune system that guards against infection by viruses, so do bacteria. The cas3 nuclease is the enzyme that destroys invading viruses in the bacterial immune system. This type of enzyme plays a key role in the bacterial CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) system, which is present in approximately 40% of bacteria and represents a gene licensing system akin to RNA interference (RNAi). Shown is the structure of the active site of cas3, which reveals how cas3 binds its catalytic metal ion. The metal ion is depicted as a green sphere caged by is electron density. Please visit the webpage of Scott Bailey for additional details about the clever CRISPR-based system of bacterial immunity.
Structural biology provides a view of life at the molecular level. Disease-related alterations to proteins and nucleic acids, once viewed, can be understood and strategies to ameliorate their effects undertaken. With the recent recruitment of Scott Bailey and Juergen Bosch, whom are experts in structural biology, BMB establishes a unique platform within a School of Public Health. Genome integrity and protein quality control, long-standing activities of BMB, are now being viewed through the lens of structural biology. This provides new insight into these processes and highlights the multidisciplinary approach used by BMB in tackling the molecular basis of disease, as it relates to public health.