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Biozentrum Lectures 2010

Lipids and membranes – seen and used in molecular electron microscopy

Thomas Walz, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School
March 17, 2010, Time: 16:00, Hörsaal 1, Pharmazentrum, Klingelbergstrasse 50-70, Basel

Electron microscopy is a versatile tool that can be used to study the structure of a variety of biological molecules. In particular, it can be used to address diverse questions related to membrane biology, ranging from elucidating the organization of transport vesicles by electron tomography to defining theinteractions of membrane proteins with annular lipids by electron crystallography. Conversely, as illustrated by the monolayer purification and AffinitGrid techniques, lipid monolayers can be used as a powerful tool to visualize macromolecular complexes by single-particle electron microscopy.

Dr. Thomas Walz  is Professor in the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.Dr. Walz was recruited to Harvard Medical School to establish a molecular electron microscopy facility, which developed into a thriving center that is now engaged in many national and international collaborations. He is particularlyinterested in determining the structure of membrane proteins by electroncrystallography and participated in solving the structure of three mammalian aquaporins. This work has led to structural studies of lipid–protein interactions. In addition, his group also uses single-particle electron microscopy to elucidate the organization of macromolecular complexes, including cell surface receptor–ligand complexes and complexes involved in vesicular transport and chromatinremodeling.Dr. Walz received his Ph.D. in Biophysics in 1996 from the University of Basel, where he worked at the Maurice E. Müller Institut under the mentorship of Dr. A. Engel. He was a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. P. Bullough’s group in the Krebs Institute at the University of Sheffield, whee he became an independent BBSRC David Phillips research fellow. In 1999 he joined the faculty of the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School and was promoted to full professor in 2007. In 2008, Dr. Walz was selected as an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.