a field of biochemistry that studies how molecules’ shapes contribute to their function (the so-called structure-function relationship). Structural biology uses techniques such as x-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to figure out what molecules (commonly proteins, nucleic acids (DNA or RNA) and/or protein/nucleic acid combos) look like at the near-atomic level (so, how are all their atoms laid out in 3D space?). Figuring this out is often referred to as “solving structures.” But that’s not the end! (or at least it shouldn’t be). In my opinion, the really exciting part comes from combining that structural information with biochemical and biophysical experiments to study function & figure out how the form and function complement each other nicely (think spoon vs knife). Structures will often provide insights about what regions (even down to the specific “residues” (protein letters)) might be important for different functions (e.g. binding something, cutting something). And then you can use site-directed mutagenesis to change those regions or residues and test to see if that function’s lost. You can also use structural biology to help design therapeutic drugs. Lots of cool stuff!
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