Strengthening structural biology research with single particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM)

Montana, USA

Our understanding of how atoms are arranged in molecules relies to some extent to how they can be visualized. Instruments capable of visualization of molecular structures are developing, such that newly developed instruments may be only available at a few locations. This fellowship will enable comprehensive training in an advanced form of microscopy called single-particle Cryo-Electron Microscopy(Cryo-EM). Once trained at the National Center for Macromolecular Imaging (NCMI), the PI will use this equipment to visualize biomolecular structures at the atomic level. This will strengthen the development of comprehensive structural biological tools at the University of Montana. Knowledge of the three-dimensional arrangement of macromolecular atoms makes it possible to understand fundamental mechanistic details of critical biological processes and the interactions between biomolecules. For many years, X-ray crystallography was the most common method for determining macromolecular structure; however, many important molecules, including membrane proteins, do not readily crystallize. Thanks to the recent development of cryo-EM as a next-generation technology for structural biology, analysis of large and dynamic complex assembles is now possible. The NCMI is one of a few national cryo-EM core facilities staffed with experts to provide training and automated single-particle data acquisition. Through collaborative visits with NCMI at Baylor University in Houston, TX, the PI and a student trainee will receive in-depth knowledge of cryo-EM and hands-on experience to operate cryo-EM instrumentation.