Structural Biology

Activities at EMBL Hamburg focus on state-of-the-art structural biology methods using synchrotron radiation, combining cutting-edge technology with an ambitious research programme for structures of multifunctional proteins and protein complexes of biomedical relevance.

EMBL Hamburg’s laboratories are on the German Synchrotron Research Centre (DESY) campus, with synchrotron radiation (PETRA III) and laser (FLASH) facilities available. In addition, a powerful X-ray free electron laser is under construction. EMBL operates a new integrated facility, called EMBL@PETRA3, for applications in structural biology at the PETRA III ring. It comprises three state-of-the-art beamlines for macromolecular X-ray crystallography and small angle X-ray scattering of biological samples, complemented by facilities for sample preparation and characterisation, and data evaluation. EMBL Hamburg is also one of the main partners in the future Centre for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB) on the DESY campus.

EMBL Hamburg has set up an ambitious research programme for structures of multifunctional proteins and protein complexes of biomedical relevance. Present research interests of group leaders include cell surface receptors, protein assemblies in muscle cells, protein kinases, protein translocation into peroxisomes, and several projects relating to tuberculosis. Common to all projects is the goal to make optimum use of on-site high-brilliance synchrotron radiation and to explore novel opportunities of the X-ray Free Electron Laser. Beyond the tools in structural biology that are available on-site, EMBL Hamburg groups are engaged in many interdisciplinary collaborations with colleagues from other EMBL units, enabling access to a large variety of in vitro and in vivo functional techniques, including cellular imaging techniques.

EMBL Hamburg also has a well-established record for the development of novel, innovative technologies in structural biology. Leading software packages for the automation of data interpretation have been developed here and are used in a large number of projects across the world’s research community. One example is the ARP/wARP package that allows automatic X-ray structure determination. Another package, ATSAS, allows the automatic interpretation of small angle X-ray scattering data for structural shape determination. Finally, there are two groups that focus on the development and construction of new equipment for experimental stations in structural biology, using synchrotron radiation. Present efforts focus on the installation of new robotics that allow automatic placement of biological samples into specialised synchrotron experiment facilities.

Research groups and teams

Blanchet team

Characterisation of biological molecules and assemblies using small angle x-ray scattering (SAXS)

Fiedler team

Synchrotron instrumentation for structural biology beamlines at PETRA III

Wilmanns group

Structure and function of molecular machinery for protein translocation across membranes

Structural biology

Research units at EMBL

Bioinformatics research

Researchers at EMBL-EBI make sense of vast, complex biological datasets produced using new and emerging technologies in molecular biology.

Cell biology and biophysics

Scientists in this unit use multidisciplinary approaches to investigate the molecular and biophysical mechanisms that enable cells to function.

Developmental biology

Scientists in the Developmental biology unit seek to understand the fundamental principles that govern multicellular development.

Directors' research

This unit covers thematically distinct research groups, headed by EMBL and EMBO leadership.

Genome biology

The Genome biology unit uses and develops cutting-edge methods to study how the information in our genome is regulated, processed, and utilised, and how its alteration leads to disease.

Structural and computational biology

Scientists in this unit use integrated structural and computational techniques to study biology at scales from molecular structures to organismal communities.

Structural biology

At its sites in Hamburg and Grenoble, EMBL provides its researchers and hundreds of external users each year with access to world-leading sources of X-ray and neutron radiation, enabling them to study the structures of biological molecules.

Tissue biology and disease modelling

Scientists at EMBL Barcelona use advanced technologies to observe, manipulate, and model how changes in genes percolate through cells, tissues, and organs, in health and disease.

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