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Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Center opened on the Max Planck Campus Tübingen

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology are on the scent of the structure of proteins and nucleic acids


Tübingen, March 16th, 2009. A center for molecular nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy has been established on the Max Planck Campus in Tübingen. Operation of the 2.5 million Euro 600 and 800 megahertz spectrometers was initiated in summer 2008. With the aid of this new equipment, scientists can study the structure and the interactions of different biological molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. These new instruments are another milestone in the development of biological research on the Tübingen site. The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Center will be formally opened on Thursday, March 19th, at 4 p.m. on the Max Planck Campus in Tübingen.

The 800 megahertz spectrometer is filled from above with the sample dissolved in a fluid. It takes about two months to establish the structure of the protein, after the sample is analyzed in the spectrometer for about two weeks, Photo: Aleksandar Basara / Max Planck Institute for Developmental BiologyNuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR spectroscopy) is a powerful technique for investigating the structural characteristics of biological molecules. Like the classical method of crystallography it can resolve the three-dimensional structure of the molecules down to every single atom. In addition, it also records the dynamics of the molecules, their movements and interactions. Thus, the NMR technique is absolutely essential for the understanding of basic processes in the cell as well as for medical and biotechnological applications “The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Center offers completely novel possibilities for the study of mechanisms by which proteins exert their biological activity,” says Andrei Lupas, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology.


How NMR spectroscopy works
In order to examine a molecule, a sample of a substance is placed into a strong magnetic field and excited by exposure to radio waves. The characteristic reactions of the single atoms enable scientists to assess various characteristics such as three-dimensional structure, movement and interaction with other molecules. The time frame for the analysis of movements ranges from as little as one picosecond (10 to the power of -12 seconds) up to several hours.

The structure and thus also the mode of function of these so-called LSm proteins were decoded using NMR spectroscopy, Figure: Vincent Truffault / Max Planck Institute for Developmental BiologyProteinstrukturenResearch with NMR spectroscopy in Tübingen
Already within the first few months of their operation, the new instruments have been used to solve the structure of three proteins. These proteins play important roles in the breakdown of RNA in the cell. This is crucial for gene regulation because in this way the cell ensures that only those proteins that are needed at that very moment are actually produced. Several research groups use the NMR technique to complement biochemical studies in research into the function of proteins. Moreover, in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, computational methods for the improvement of the interpretation of data from NMR spectroscopy are being developed.


Information for Editors:
Representatives of the Press are cordially invited to attend the opening of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Center on Thursday, March 19th at 4 p.m. Interviews with the scientists involved are possible following to prior agreement. Printable pictures can be obtained from the Press and Public Relations Department or can be made on location. Please send us a copy of your material on publication.

Contact:
Dr. Vincent Truffault
Phone: +49 (0)7071-601-1368
E-mail: Vincent.Truffault(at)tuebingen.mpg.de

Susanne Diederich (Press and Public Relations)
Phone: +49 (0)7071-601-333
Email: presse(at)tuebingen.mpg.de


The Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology performs basic research in biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, and cell and evolutionary biology. It employs around 325 staff and is located on the Max Planck Campus in Tübingen. The MPI for Developmental Biology is one of 80 institutes and research centers of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science.


The 800 megahertz spectrometer on the Max Planck Campus Tübingen, Photo: Aleksandar Basara / Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

The 800 megahertz spectrometer on the Max Planck Campus Tübingen, Photo: Aleksandar Basara / Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

The 800 megahertz spectrometer is filled from above with the sample dissolved in a fluid. It takes about two months to establish the structure of the protein, after the sample is analyzed in the spectrometer for about two weeks, Photo: Aleksandar Basara / Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

The 800 megahertz spectrometer is filled from above with the sample dissolved in a fluid. It takes about two months to establish the structure of the protein, after the sample is analyzed in the spectrometer for about two weeks, Photo: Aleksandar Basara / Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

The structure and thus also the mode of function of these so-called LSm proteins were decoded using NMR spectroscopy, Figure: Vincent Truffault / Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

The structure and thus also the mode of function of these so-called LSm proteins were decoded using NMR spectroscopy, Figure: Vincent Truffault / Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology