Remote access to EMBL structural biology pipelines to support research on SARS-CoV-2

Fully automated protein-to-structure pipeline allows scientists to operate facilities at EMBL Grenoble via the internet

Crystallization reagents being prepared by a pipetting robot at the HTX lab.
Crystallization reagents being prepared by a pipetting robot at the HTX lab. PHOTO: Marietta Schupp/EMBL

The Marquez Team has restarted operations at the High-Throughput Crystallisation (HTX) lab at EMBL Grenoble. The team has developed a fully automated protein-to-structure pipeline based on the CrystalDirect technology and the Crystallographic Information Management System (CRIMS) software, which can be operated by any scientist from a computer with an internet connection, providing virtual access to these structural biology facilities. It remains possible for scientists to send samples via post from anywhere in the world and access their results via CRIMS. The CRIMS software is able to communicate with the ESRF synchrotron in Grenoble and the PETRA III synchrotron in Hamburg, to support automated and remote X-ray data collection. These capabilities are unique and provide valuable support for structural biology projects focusing on SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses.

The HTX lab in Grenoble is part of a wide range of structural biology services offered by EMBL on four of its sites. EMBL Grenoble and EMBL Hamburg provide support for X-ray-related experiments, in close collaboration with the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble and the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg. At both sites, synchrotron beamlines are complemented by facilities for the preparation and crystallisation of biological samples. At Grenoble, a Titan Krios microscope installed at the ESRF and run jointly by the four institutes on Grenoble’s EPN campus is available via peer-reviewed access granted by the ESRF Beamtime Allocation Review Panel. EMBL Heidelberg provides access to the Cryo-EM Service Platform, and to advanced facilities for sample preparation and data analysis. This range of services for external users will be offered from 2021 at the EMBL Imaging Centre. EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Hinxton, UK, provides additional support through its data repositories (PDB, EMDB, and EMPIAR).

Tags: corona, coronavirus, covid-19, CrystalDirect, crystallography, grenoble, infection biology, pandemic, sars-cov-2, structural biology


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