Life is driven by proteins as molecular machines. To properly understand these, detailed 3D protein structure models are needed, giving unique insight into biology and helping the development of new drugs. Proteins are highly dependent on their 3D folding for properly performing their functions. However, obtaining reliable protein structure models is challenging and labor-intensive. That's why researcher Bart van Beusekom and colleagues of The Netherlands Cancer Institute developed software that optimizes thousands of protein structure models to make them more complete and reduce errors. Van Beusekom: "This allows us to better understand the biology and the automation also saves scientists' valuable time. Our software is used by over 10,000 people each month."
The methods they've created make frequent use of the concept of homology. Van Beusekom: "Homologous protein structures remain similar during evolution. For instance, the proteins that copy DNA are almost identical in humans and chimpanzees, but even those from tomatoes have similar 3D structures. Existing data of solved homologous structures is oftentimes not used optimally when solving a new one. That's why we have developed a website showing scientists where and how a structure model is different from its homologs. Our methods are the first to systematically use all available homologous protein structure models to improve new models in several ways."
Want to know more? Download Bart van Beusekom's thesis here.
Practical information about the defense can be found on Utrecht University's website.