Life under the microscope: why freeze molecules

© Illustration RIA Novosti . Alina’s Polyaninova to consider the biological object under the microscope, it is necessary to freezeLife under the microscope: why freeze molecules© Illustration RIA Novosti . Alina Polyanina

The Nobel prize in chemistry in 2017 was awarded for developing a method cryoelectron microscopy, allowing to restore the structure of biomolecules. The only modern cryomicroscope has the Kurchatov Institute. How this device works and what it’s exploring, revealed to RIA Novosti.

It should be understood that the object is a model, not an image like a photo. In fact, the model represents an averaged image of the studied molecules. Why trust him and I think incredibly accurate? The fact that the sample of studied objects is carefully prepared for study cryomicroscope. I usually try to get as more pure and homogenous solution, where the molecules are practically in the same spatial conformations. Of course, the position of various atoms in biomolecules is a little different. But in the calculations the computer averages the data, building a universal model.

The key to life
«We managed to create a model of the bacterial ribosome with a resolution of better than three angstroms (an Angstrom is one ten-billionth fraction of a meter. — Approx. ed.). The level is world for this kind of objects. And this is the first structure of the ribosome with almost atomic resolution obtained entirely in Russia with cryoelectron microscopy. This resolution allowed us to visualize the antibiotic, which is a just a speck compared to the ribosome is a large macromolecular complex responsible for protein synthesis in all living cells,» — says the expert.

The mechanism of action of approximately 40% of antibiotics is based on the fact that they interfere with the ribosomes of bacteria to synthesize proteins, and the pathogen dies. Cryoelectron microscopy is visualized at the molecular level.

© NRC «Kurchatov Institute»a three-Dimensional model of the ribosome with a high resolution obtained after processing the experimental data on a supercomputer of the Kurchatov data center. Highlighted tRNA, responsible for the transport of amino acids to the ribosome. Life under the microscope: why freeze molecules© NRC «Kurchatov Institute»a three-Dimensional model of the ribosome with a high resolution obtained after processing the experimental data on a supercomputer of the Kurchatov data center. Highlighted tRNA, responsible for the transport of amino acids to the ribosome.

«I hope further work will help to advance the understanding of the mechanism of protein biosynthesis, as well as the development of new more effective antibiotics,» says Yevhen Pichkur.

According to him, in five or ten years, technology has been achieved that we will see a dynamic picture of tiny biological object. The visualization is fast, at least the order of milliseconds, process — critical phase, which has yet to develop appropriate tools and approaches.

Source