Laboratory for Dynamic Structure of Biomolecules
Structural biology is a discipline for studying of the molecular structure of biological molecules, such as proteins, to reveal how they are formed, how they function and how they interact with other molecules. In April 2020, the Laboratory for Dynamic Structure of Biomolecules, led by Team Leader Ichio Shimada, that is undertaking structural biology research using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) was launched at the Yokohama Campus. Here, we introduce this new laboratory.
What are the main research themes of the laboratory？
In addition to conventional NMR analysis methods, we develop new NMR technology to analyze the structure of biomolecules under physiological conditions. We have been focusing on analyzing and dissecting the function-related dynamics of membrane proteins (e.g., G protein-coupled receptors) and related proteins that play crucial roles in many biological phenomena and are also important targets for drug discovery.
RNAs have emerged as a novel target for drug development, however, detailed three-dimensional (3D) RNA structural data that can serve as the basis for RNA-targeted drug discovery is limited. To accelerate research for RNA-targeted drug discovery, it is necessary to develop basic strategies to experimentally obtain atomic-resolution 3D structures of target RNAs and their complexes under physiological conditions. We recently started a new RNA project to address this, which is part of a larger collaboration with other institutions and industry partners and has been in the works since 2019.
How many people are there in the laboratory?
There is a total of eight people working in the laboratory—the team leader, one senior scientist, one research scientist, one technical staff and four graduate students (student trainees).
Is there anything that the lab is particular about with respect to research?
Solution NMR is the best approach for obtaining dynamic structural information about membrane proteins under physiological conditions. We are dedicated to carrying out highly original research using NMR, including our newly developed NMR methodology to investigate the function-related dynamics of biomolecules.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the research activities of the laboratory?
We were just beginning to set up our lab when the pandemic began to gain speed last year. Our assistant did a good job of ordering and arranging for the equipment and supplies needed for our lab, so when the first state-of-emergency was declared, we were just waiting for the orders to arrive. Fortunately for us, our research was not overly affected by the events of the past year.