Science Education: Structural Biology
Understanding the shapes of biological molecules to learn more about how they function and interact—that's structural biology. Studies in structural biology focus on questions like:
- Why does a protein's shape matter?
- How can misshapen molecules make us sick?
- How can we visualize the structural details of large and complex molecules?
Follow the links below to learn more about structural biology, including recent discoveries, and read profiles of researchers working in this field.
The Structures of Life
Reveals how structural biology provides insight into health and disease and is useful in developing new medications.
Computing Structural Biology from Computing Life
Shows how combining chemistry and computers helps scientists understand and predict how proteins fold and interact and could lead to new medicines for protein-related disorders.
Structural biology is a field of science focused on understanding the shapes of biological molecules. Learn about why and how scientists study these structures.
Protein Structure Initiative: Pilot Phase
The PSI started in 2000 to develop new methods for generating the structures of lots of protein molecules. Read about its accomplishments during the first 5 years.
Protein Structure Initiative: Production Phase
The second phase of the PSI started in 2005 and sought to further develop and improve high-throughput structure determination techniques. Read about its accomplishments.
Fitting a Piece of the Protein-Function Puzzle
A combination of computational and experimental methods shows promise for identifying the functions of many proteins.
Cell Biology Advances and Computational Techniques Earn Nobels for NIGMS Grantees
The 2013 Nobel Prizes recognize research on the machinery that cells use to import and export materials and on computational techniques for creating highly accurate models of molecular structures.
Structural Details of Enzyme Involved in Antibiotic Resistance
Disease-causing bacteria like E. coli have an enzyme that defends against antibiotics, and now researchers have a more detailed understanding of how that enzyme works.
Exploring the Elusive World of Life's Most Vital Proteins
Take a peek at the structures of some G protein-coupled receptors. The details may help us understand how these important proteins work and design drugs that target them.
Getting a Better Grasp on Flu Fundamentals
Studying the molecular structure of the flu virus and modeling how flu infection can spread are aiding efforts to keep people from getting sick.
For Proteins, Form Shapes Function
Every protein has a shape that helps a molecule do its job. Understanding protein shape allows researchers to learn more about protein function and how it can contribute to health and disease, including HIV/AIDS.
HIV on the Brain
Graduate student George Hightower researches genetic mutations that affect HIV's ability to infect the brain.
The Family Business
Computational biologist David Baker custom designs computer software to predict the three-dimensional shapes of proteins.
Structural biologist Mavis Agbandje-McKenna studies how viruses infect cells.
Cool Video: HIV's Inner Shell
Scientists have determined the exact structure of the inner shell of HIV, which contains its genetic material. This finding may lead to new and more effective HIV antiretroviral drugs.
Cool Video: How a Virus Infects
Watching how a T7 virus changes its structure to infect a cell could shed light on how other viruses infect as well as aid the design of new drugs.
Modeling How HIV Latches on to Immune Cell Receptors
This model shows how HIV, in gray, might latch on to immune cell receptor molecules, allowing the virus to enter and infect the cell.
Cool Image: Making the Ribosome Move
Details gleaned from this atomic-resolution image of the protein-building ribosome bound to the molecule that controls its motion could lead to better antibiotics.
Interactive Timeline - 50 Years of Protein Structure Determination
A timeline of significant research advances in protein structure determination.
Cool Image: Exploring HIV
Structures related to HIV have helped paint this detailed picture of the virus and have led to some important classes of drugs to treat the infection.