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Structural Biology Programme

Crystallography and Protein Engineering Unit

Head of Unit:  Inés Muñoz

Nowadays, knowledge of the three-dimensional ( 3D ) structure of a protein is critical in order to gain a full understanding of its function. The structures of proteins, alone or in complex with other biological partners, reveal functional networks thereby providing a better understanding of the behaviour of the cell’s molecular machinery. This implies knowing how proteins move, detecting their interacting partners, and comprehending the changes that they undergo. Close images facilitated by 3D structures provide the possibility of introducing rationally designed mutants that alter their affinity and specificity towards interacting molecules, aiding in the recognition of the physicochemical mechanisms that govern their function. This is why structural data has become crucial in guiding the drug design process, and the results have proven to be relevant for the development of novel therapies.

To achieve this goal, the Crystallography and Protein Engineering Unit provides services at different levels in order to meet the demands of research groups at the CNIO and outside our institute. At the structural determination level, the Unit offers state-of-theart, high-throughput protein crystallisation screening facilities that include sophisticated equipment for the identification of protein crystals, as well as a full-service offering of X-ray crystallography and small-angle x-ray (SAXS) analyses. As an academic Unit, we have access to high-tech European infrastructures such as the synchrotron light sources. At the protein production level, we have at our disposal a wide array of instrumentation and technical support for the design and purification of soluble recombinant proteins required in large amounts up to milligram quantities, for structural, biophysical or biochemical characterisation, and also for antibody production.