The life consists of complex biological processes involving proteins and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), which adopt 3D structures and interact with specific molecules. Structural biology allows us to “look at” the 3D structures of biological macromolecules and understand the molecular mechanisms underlying various biological processes at the atomic level. Furthermore, the structural information enables us to design new macromolecules that have improved functionality and can be used as useful research tools. For example, we have determined the structures of important biological macromolecules, such as the RNA-guided DNA cleaving enzyme CRISPR-Cas9 and light-gated ion channel channelrodopsin, and elucidated their unique molecular mechanisms. Furthermore, the structural information has been used as a basis for the development of new genome-editing and optogenetic tools. While X-ray crystallography has been the most popular way to determine the 3D structures of biological macromolecules, recent technical advances in cryo-electron microscopy enables the structural analyses of difficult targets for X-ray crystallography, such as large, flexible macromolecule complexes. Structural biology is thus critical for a deeper understanding of the life.
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