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An Encyclopedia of Structural Genomics: Nature Structural Biology Special Supplement

  November, 4 2000 3:45
your information resource in human molecular genetics
Nature Structural Biology Special Supplement on Structural Genomics

This month we are presenting a special supplement to the journal, and the topic is the emerging field of Structural Genomics. This area of research represents one of the next important phases of genomic analysis, after the sequencing of many genomes (including the human genome) is complete. In this special supplement, we present a set of ~18 reviews that define the field, explain the current activities that are ongoing around the world, describe the technical hurdles that must be overcome, and cover the long-term goals and strategies of the research groups.

The sequencing of numerous genomes is important and impressive, but it will not be sufficient for the development of effective disease therapies because genes are the storehouses of genetic information in cells, not the active participants in cellular processes. Genes encode the blueprints for making proteins, which are the molecules that perform most of the functions in living organisms. Therefore, it is important to determine the function of each protein in an organism, and how it goes about performing its assigned tasks. And, to understand a protein's role in detail, it is necessary to know its structure at atomic resolution. Researchers in the field of Structural Genomics want to make it possible to obtain some atomic resolution structural information about nearly every protein.

A major goal of the field of Structural Genomics is to make the process of protein structure determination automated and extremely rapid (from ~1 year per structure currently to ~1 month or less, for example), so that we can begin to amass atomic resolution structures of all proteins. Another goal is to decrease the cost of each structure determination (from ~$200,000 currently to hopefully ~$20,000) so that the enterprise is financially feasible.

Last month (in the October issue), Nature Structural Biology published a paper that investigated the technical feasibility of Structural Genomics [Nature Struct. Biol. 7, 903-909 (2000)]. This paper showed that high throughput structure determination starting only with genomic sequence information is possible with both NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography, the two major techniques used for determining the atomic resolution structures of biomolecules.

In addition, in late September, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health in the USA funded seven large centers devoted to Structural Genomics, giving ~$4 million to each center for the first of five years.

Our supplement on Structural Genomics comes at a crucial time and should help readers understand what this field is all about.

For the free complete supplement on Structural Genomics, click the link below:

Nature Structural Biology Special Supplement on Structural Genomics

(C) Nature Structural Biology press release.

Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza

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