News and Publications
Center for Integrative Molecular Biosciences
Ronald A. Milligan, Ph.D.
The Center for Integrative Molecular Biosciences (CIMBio) is
a new, interdisciplinary facility organized to bring together
the talents of several TSRI groups in divergent disciplines such
as chemistry, biochemistry, structural biology, and cell biology.
The investigators' interests converge in a single area: the structures
of the tiny machines that buzz with activity inside cells. These
machines include the transcription complexes that make messages
from genes, membrane channels and pumps that import and export
materials, and the tiny molecular tracks and motors that move
cells and form important structures such as the mitotic spindle.
Members of CIMBio seek to speedily obtain and analyze these structures through
the combined use of x-ray crystallography and electron microscopy.
Customized support rooms and large open laboratories contribute
to an overall infrastructure that makes CIMBio one of the most
advanced biological microscopy centers in the world.
The centerpiece of CIMBio and the focal point for the building design is a microscopy suite containing 6 state-of-the-art electron microscope rooms. When combined with the x-ray structures of the component parts, 3-dimensional electron microscopy maps can yield a detailed description of the structure and action of an entire cellular machine. CIMBio is devoted to determining both the structure of the proteins and nucleic acids in complexes that carry out the work of the cell and the dynamics of those cellular machines: their assembly, disassembly, and control over time.
Another exciting development at the center is the automation of the electron
microscopic technique, which, done manually, can take weeks or
even months of tedious work. Two investigators in CIMBio's automated
molecular imaging group are creating algorithms for automated
data collection and analysis, which should simplify the technique
of electron microscopy and enable a dramatic increase in the amount
of data handled. These scientists aim to apply their techniques
to projects that would otherwise be prohibitive because of the
labor involved. Using fully automatic techniques, they constructed
one of the best 3-dimensional maps of the tobacco mosaic virus
in fewer than 2 days, a task that would have taken months just
a few years ago and weeks today with conventional methods.