What really happens in living cells? This is, of course, not the easiest thing for researchers to work on, and it becomes even more difficult when dealing with proteins that continuously change their structure. Many diseases involve extremely mobile proteins that respond rapidly to changes in the surroundings and take on different structures and shapes, depending on the situation. Other proteins are misfolded in certain diseases, where one of many examples is Alzheimer’s disease.
The ProLinC research infrastructure facility at LiU possesses an instrument park that researchers can use to study these dynamic and misfolded proteins. The equipment at ProLinC will now become available for researchers from other countries through MOSBRI, an international network of research resources in biophysics, which will open on 1 July.Maria Sunnerhagen. Photo credit Charlotte Perhammar
“Scientists in Linköping have long been active in research into the structure and function of dynamic proteins. This is why it’s particularly gratifying and a great honour that we have been included as the only Swedish node in this European network”, says Maria Sunnerhagen, professor in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology and driving force behind ProLinC (PROtein folding and Ligand INteraction Core facility).
Molecules of life in focus
The molecules of life include proteins, DNA, RNA, lipids (fats) and a type of carbohydrate known as polysaccharides. Some of these molecules are stable, and it is possible to describe in detail their structure at atomic level using various biophysical methods. At the other end of the scale we have the cell in its entirety, containing thousands of simultaneous processes, and that must be studied with other methods.
“Projects under MOSBRI will focus on the window between the static, atomic methods and methods that give information at a more overall level, cellular, level. Between these two regions, there are many dynamic and mobile processes that we must study, if we are to understand what happens inside the cell. We must look at proteins binding and releasing each other, how they fold and unfold. We have many methods available to study these processes and we have now gathered them in MOSBRI, such that researchers can meet experts within their particular field of application. They will also be able to carry out critical experiments using state-of-the-art equipment”, says Maria Sunnerhagen.MOSBRI is a consortium of 13 academic centres of excellence and 2 industrial partners from 11 different European countries.
The MOSBRI network comprises 13 research institutions in Europe. It has grown out of a need felt by biophysicists in several countries to meet each other to discuss methods and learn from each other. The network has received SEK 50 million for four years from the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework programme. All researchers from academia or industry can apply to travel to another country to carry out experiments using the research resources available there, in what is known as transnational access. The costs of a visit made by a successful applicant will be paid by the network.
“LiU will receive researchers from other countries, and Swedish researchers can gain access to specialised research equipment and expertise at an international level that may not even be available in Sweden. I’m looking forward to making contact with new international research groups, and that Swedish researchers will take the opportunity to travel more often to high-quality modern facilities in other countries”, says Maria Sunnerhagen. Photo credit Olov Planthaberl
The network offers more than 40 different types of instrument in 15 methodologies. Applications for access are managed by the node at LiU, and the researchers here have taken an initiative that enables researchers who are uncertain about the method that is most suitable for their question to receive guidance.
“We have a special pipeline for researchers who are considering the dynamic interactions between biomolecules, but are not yet sure about which experiments they should carry out. A council of experts will then help the researchers explore the opportunities offered by the methods in the network”, says Maria Sunnerhagen.
MOSBRI is a consortium of 13 academic partners and two industrial partners in 11 European countries. It is coordinated by the Institut Pasteur in France.
Translated by George Farrants