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Division of Labor

The initial focus of Wilson's consortium will be on the nematode, C. elegans. The group has divided the responsibilities for developing technology and determining protein structure into three areas, reflected organizationally in three core groups.

The bioinformatics core is headed by Adam Godzik of UCSD. UCSD and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor Susan Taylor will be responsible for target selection. The focus will be on the large group of proteins implicated in cell signaling (information transmission within and between cells), which may provide clues to many aspects of disease. Bioinformatics, the study of the inherent structure of biological information and biological systems, will help identify the most promising targets and ascertain related proteins in the fruit fly, mouse, human, and yeast. The handling, manipulation, analysis, and storage of the vast amounts of data will be carried out by the Bioinformatics Core.

The crystallomics core, led by Stevens, will focus on sequences specified by the target selection committee, expressing, purifying, and crystallizing these proteins. Using technology initially developed by Schultz and Stevens at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and more recently at GNF, the crystallomics group will utilize a high-throughput robotic production line that can produce thousands of samples of purified proteins per year and perform over a hundred thousand crystallization screens a day. This group will then deliver crystals to the structure determination core.

The structure determination core, led by Peter Kuhn, assistant professor and Macromolecular Crystallography Group co-leader at the SSRL, will handle high-throughput structure determination and refinement. The SSRL, which provides synchrotron radiation (x-rays or light produced by electrons circulating in a storage ring at nearly the speed of light) to bombard the crystals and obtain diffraction data, will provide the group with a powerful resource for structure determination.

Wilson comments, "As we progress through the project, we will be generating enormous amounts of information. We plan to record all our results, negative as well as positive. Scientists who come later will know what didn't work for us as well as what did."

Five years hence, those involved in the Joint Center for Structural Genomics hope to have solved 2,000 protein structures, be prepared for the design and implementation of the next generation of high-throughput technology, and—perhaps most importantly—have created the infrastructure to significantly advance our understanding of some fundamental principals of biology.

"Administering a multi-institutional collaboration has its challenges," comments Wilson, "But in this case it also offers a unique opportunity: to integrate biophysics in ‘La Jolla Mesa.’"


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“Administering a multi-institutional collaboration has its challenges. But in this case it also offers a unique opportunity: to integrate biophysics in ‘La Jolla Mesa.’”

—Ian Wilson
















See also:

The Joint Center for Structural Genomics

The Wilson lab home page

News Release