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The Structural Biotechnology group was founded in 2007 at the bioengineering department, Faculty of Biology at Lomonosov Moscow State University. The group is lead by prof. Olga Sokolova.
Research activities in our lab focus on structure and functions of macromolecular complexes in living cells. Macromolecular cryo-electron microscopy and three-dimensional (3D) image-reconstruction techniques are used in our research to visualize large macromolecular assemblies. Recent technological advances have led to "resolution revolution" - an explosive growth in this field and have allowed researchers to observe molecules and molecular interactions at near-atomic resolutions. Cryo-EM is highly complementary to NMR and X-Ray Crystallography as it can create images of transient, large, multimolecular complexes not amenable to those technologies. Moreover, this method allows to distinguish various conformations of protein complexes and to reveal a separate model for every conformation (Sokolova et al., 2017). Such information is essential for a mechanistic understanding of biological functions, as most cellular functions are carried out through formation of large complexes.
Computer reconstruction techniques are continuously being developed to more efficiently extract usable information from the noisy EM image data. Achieving resolutions beyond 1 nm currently requires a high-level microscopes with careful data acquisition and processing. Structural data has a great importance for understanding of the functioning mechanisms and changes in protein activity. They form a basis for molecular modeling of activation/inactivation processes, for planning of new experiments on directed mutagenesis and computer design of new pharmaceutical drugs.