Structural biology is the study of the molecular structure and dynamics of biological macromolecules, particularly proteins and nucleic acids and how alterations in their structures affect their function. Structural biology incorporates the principles of molecular biology, biochemistry and biophysics. A third approach that structural biologists take to understanding structure is bioinformatics to look for patterns among the diverse sequences that give rise to particular shapes.
Several methods are currently used to determine the structure of a protein including X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy and electron microscopy. In each of these methods the scientist uses many pieces of information to create the final atomic model. Primarily the scientist has some kind of experimental data about the structure of the molecule. For X-ray crystallography this is the X-ray diffraction pattern and for NMR spectroscopy it is information on the local conformation and distance between atoms that are close to one another. In electron microscopy it is an image of the overall shape of the molecule.
Mass Spectrometry (MS) has become an important tool to identify the overall stoichiometry of native-like membrane proteins complexed to ligand bindings as well as to provide insights into the transport mechanism across the membrane with complementary information coming from X-ray crystallography.
Structural biology mainly focuses at the atomic level for understanding the biomolecules and most of the aspects are complex. Researchers are proving to be successful in solving these complexities like the determination of protein structures, functional annotations and drug designing. Though structures of proteins are solved on a huge scale, the gap between available sequence data and structure data is enormous.
Structural Biology plays major role in cell-cell adhesion i.e. a mechanism employed by cells of the immune system via sugar-binding proteins called lectins, which recognize specific carbohydrate moieties. Proteins (carbohydrate oligomers) are the “building blocks” of carbohydrates, nucleic acids, proteins and lipids which play major roles in many biological phenomena as well as in various pathophysiological processes.
Protein structure prediction is the prediction of the three-dimensional structure of a protein from its amino acid sequence that is the prediction of its folding and its secondary, tertiary and quaternary structure from its primary structure.
The Protein database (PDB) which is a crystallographic database is used for 3D structural data of larger biomolecules. The mainly used databases are Electron Microscopy Data Bank, Protein Structure Classification Database (CATH), Structural Classification of Protein (SCOP) and Protein Data Bank(PDB).
Sequence analysis is the process of subjecting a DNA, RNA or peptide sequence to any of a wide range of analytical methods to understand its features, function, structure or evolution. Fortunately the analytical tools available today take most of the manual work out of the next-generation sequencing(NGS) data analysis process making it easier to glean meaningful information quickly.
Glycobiology is the study of the structure, biosynthesis and biology of saccharides that are widely distributed in nature. Sugars or saccharides are essential components of all living things and aspects of the various roles they play in biology and are researched in various medical, biochemical and biotechnological fields. Indeed, most human metabolomics studies published today, even those exploiting the latest and most sensitive LC-MS/MS technologies, typically succeed in identifying or characterizing fewer than 100 compounds.
Structural biology currently plays an important role in the development of novel therapeutic agents including cancer chemotherapies. X-ray crystallography has proved to be a powerful tool for both the discovery of novel compounds and their subsequent development. Understanding the cellular, molecular and biochemical interactions of tumors within their microenvironment is essential to improving cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Research in cancer science seeks to define the biological basis for the differences between normal cells and cancer cells and to elucidate basic mechanisms that drive the development and behavior of tumors. Mechanistic understanding of this biology and these fundamental processes is critical for identifying molecular targets for therapeutic or preventive intervention.
Molecular Medicine promotes the understanding of biological mechanism of disease at the cellular and molecular levels for better diagnoses, treatment and prevention of disease. Proteomics plays an important role in medical research and molecular medicine such as in drug discovery and diagnostics because of the link between proteins, genes and diseases and it is considered to be the next step in modern biology.
Knowledge of the three-dimensional structures of proteins is the key to unlocking the full potential of genomic information. Protein plays vital role in all biochemical reactions that occurs in the body. They act as carriers and also provide strength and structure, determining structure of a protein has always been tedious. Innovative ideas are being progressed in different fields of structural biology.
Computational structural biology has made tremendous progress and it mainly covers the impact on protein structure prediction methods, macromolecular function and protein design, and key methods in drug discovery. It also addresses the computational challenges of experimental approaches in structural biology.