Welcome at the Department of Molecular Structural Biology

The Department of Molecular Structural Biology (MSB) at the Institute for Microbiology & Genetics (IMG) is accommodated in the Ernst-Caspari-Building of the Göttingen Centre of Molecular Biosciences (GZMB). The Department is headed by Prof. Dr. R.Ficner, .

The MSB offers lectures and pratical courses in Biochemistry and Structural Biology within the Bachelor programs Biology and Biochemistry, respectively, as well as in the Master program Microbiology & Biochemistry.

The goal of all research activities in the MSB Department is to understand the relation between the three-dimensional structure of a biological macromolecule (such as a protein, or a protein-RNA complex) and its cellular function. In order to achieve this we use different methods of structural biology and biochemistry, with a strong focus on structure determination by means of X-ray crystallography. Current research projects are:

  • Nucleocytoplasmic Transport
    The active transport of proteins or RNA molecules from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, or vice versa from the cytoplasm to the nucleus is accomplished by specific transport proteins, or so-called importins or exportins. Importins and exportins specifically recognize their respective cargos, mediate interaction with the nuclear pore complex and allow passage through the nuclear pore.
    By the crystal structure analysis of the exportin CRM1 and of functional CRM1 complexes we were able to elucidate its function at an atomic level.

  • RNA-modifying enzymes
    RNA molecules contain in addition to the four standard nucleosides (A, G, U, C) a variety of different modified nucleosides. They all are generated by RNA-modifying enzymes post-transcriptionally, with the type of modification and their position in the RNA sequence being exactly determined.
    Our crystal structure analysis of the 4-thiouridine synthetase in complex with a bound substrate RNA explains, why exclusively the uridine at position 8 in tRNAs is transformed into a 4-thiouridine.

  • Spliceosomal RNA Helicases
    The splicing of pre-mRNA, which removes non-coding introns and ligates the exons, is catalysed by a huge macromolecular machine, the spliceosome. Within the pre-mRNA splicing process several RNA helicases are involved, each with a specific task. By crystallographic and biochemical studies we aim to understand the how this specificity is achieved and how their activities is controlled.

  • Eukaryotic Translation Initiation Factors
    In eukaryotic cells the initiation of ribosomal mRNA translation requires the interplay of more than 20 proteins, which are referred to as eIFs. By the elucidation and analysis of the crystal structures of eIF3b and eIF5b we could gain important insights into their respective function.