In order to understand how macromolecules, particularly proteins, function — for example how they transport oxygen, detect light, fire an electrical impulse, break down or synthesise other molecules, etc. — we need to know their three-dimensional structures.
Structural information of proteins can also be useful for industrial or medical applications. Structure-based engineering of α-amylases, a well-researched important enzyme of vast industrial value, is still a keen research topic in order to meet the different industrial requirements. Likewise, based on the proteins’ known structures, drugs can efficiently be designed to inhibit proteins which are involved in diseases such as dengue fever and malaria.
X-ray crystallography is the primary means of solving a protein’s structure. The process includes crystallization, crystal optimization, crystal diffraction and structure determination. Since every protein crystallizes under different conditions, over hundreds of conditions have to be screened during crystallization to identify the initial crystallization conditions, which will then need to be optimized. The Protein X-Ray Crystallography unit is fully equipped to carry out structural studies on proteins or protein complexes (with a ligand, DNA, RNA, other protein, etc.).