Structural Biology & Biophysics

Three-dimensional structure of the VDAC membrane protein.

The understanding of biological functions depends ultimately on an accurate account of biomolecular interactions in regard to structure, physical forces and their resulting dynamics. Enormous technical advances have been made in visualizing the three-dimensional structures and in quantifying the dynamics of cellular components down to the atomic level. The research groups working in Structural Biology & Biophysics aim to apply and further develop these structural and biophysical techniques.

The structural techniques range from light microscopy, electron and scanning microscopy to X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy. Biophysical methods encompass many different time-resolved spectroscopic techniques such as laser-flash spectroscopy and FRET, thermodynamic analytical methods such as ITC and DSC microcalorimetry, NMR imaging and in vivo spectroscopy. The use of rigorous combinations of these techniques enables the structure of biological matter to be determined at all magnifications; from details at the atomic level to entire cells up to small organisms.

In this way, dynamic changes can also be analyzed and quantified over a period of picoseconds or very long periods of time and the energetics and thermodynamics of biomolecular interactions can be investigated with very high precision. There is close teamwork between this branch of research and other areas of science at the Biozentrum, since many of the investigations involve projects which are carried out together with other research groups with a biochemical or biological orientation.