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Single-particle cryo-EM: Visualization of biological molecules in their native states

The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay organised an Institute Colloquium on Friday, January 17, 2020. The details of the lecture are

given below:

Title   : "Single-particle cryo-EM: Visualization of biological

                    molecules in their native states"


Speaker :     Professor Joachim Frank, Nobel laureate in chemistry (2017),

                    Columbia University, New York


Day & Date:    Friday, January 17, 2020


Time      : 5.15 pm


Venue     : Prof. B. Nag Auditorium, VMCC, IIT Bombay


The aim of Structural Biology is to explain life processes in terms of

macromolecular interactions in the cell. These interactions typically

involve more than two partners, and can run up to dozens. A full

description will need to characterize all structures on the atomic level,

and the way these structures change in the process. Because of the crowded

environment of the cell, such characterization is presently only possible

when the group of interacting molecules (often organized into processive

“molecular machines”) is isolated and studied in vitro. While X-ray

crystallography has provided structures of a large number of molecular

structures, the need for crystals diffracting to high resolution has

severely limited the number of supramolecular assemblies and the range of

conformers that can be studied with this technique. Single-particle

cryo-electron microscopy is about to fill this gap, allowing functional

processes to be studied in great detail without imposing restraints on the

structures. There are many examples now for this expansion of Structural

Biology toward a full characterization of a functional process. This

presentation covered concept, history and examples of the present

capabilities of single-particle cryo-EM, and its significance for

Medicine. It then briefly covered the future prospects, which included

the study of short-lived intermediates in a nonequilibrium system by

time-resolved techniques, and the characterization of continuous

structural changes using data mining from large ensembles of molecule images.


About the speaker:

Prof. Joachim Frank received the 2017 Nobel prize in chemistry "for

developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure

determination of biomolecules in solution."


He is a Professor of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular

Biophysics, and a Professor of the Department of Biological Sciences at

Columbia University. He received his Ph.D. from the Technical University

in Munich and, in 1975, joined the Wadsworth Center in Albany as a Senior

Research Scientist. In 1985, he joined the faculty of the Department of

Biomedical Sciences in the newly founded School of Public Health of SUNY

Albany. In 2008 he moved to New York to assume his current positions. Dr.

Frank's lab has developed techniques of electron microscopy and

single-particle reconstruction of biological macromolecules, specializing

in mathematical and computational approaches. He has applied these

techniques of visualization to explore the structure and dynamics of the

ribosome during the process of protein synthesis.


Dr. Frank is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the

American Academy of Microbiology. He is also a fellow of the American

Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Association for the

Advancement of Science. He was recently honored for his contributions to

the development of cryogenic electron microscopy of biological molecules

and the study of protein synthesis with the 2014 Franklin Medal for Life

Science. In 2017 he shared the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences with

Richard Henderson and Marin van Heel.