Biochemistry, Biophysics, Structure

How do individual molecules combine to perform complex biological functions?

Scientists at the Vienna BioCenter are using bottom-up approaches to discover how individual molecules assemble into sophisticated 3D structures that perform highly specialized cellular functions. By combining biochemistry research, biophysics research, and state-of-the-art structural methods, scientists are resolving macromolecular complexes at atomic resolution, reconstituting multi-component complexes in vitro, studying protein-ligand interactions, and observing molecular machines in action.

Understanding the 3D structures of biological macromolecules and complexes such as the nuclear pore and the proteasome, and learning how they acquire these structures, is key for understanding their diverse and specialized functions. Three basic scientific disciplines are central to this field and synergize at the Vienna BioCenter: biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology. Traditional biochemistry research is increasingly complemented by the related discipline of biophysics, which applies approaches and methods in physics to study biomolecules and their interactions. Structural biology, a branch of biochemistry and biophysics, provides ever more detailed views of complex biomolecules. These interrelated disciplines are crucial for understanding how macromolecular machines form and function, and what causes them to malfunction, which can provide important insights into many different human diseases.

At the Vienna BioCenter, scientists from nearly half of the 90 research groups extensively employ such interdisciplinary approaches to directly observe, model, and manipulate biomolecules and their complexes. Techniques in regular use include single-molecule biochemistry, cryo-electron microscopy (EM), X-ray crystallography, NMR, mass spectrometry, protein complex stoichiometry analysis, and fluorescence imaging. In particular, researchers in the structural biology labs are exploiting recent developments in single particle cryo-EM and contributing to further technological progress. Cryo-EM can solve the structures of large macromolecular complexes at high resolution and visualize macromolecular machines in action. For example, our scientists have used the technique to study different functional states of the 1.5-MDa anaphase-promoting complex, which is a key regulator of the cell cycle.

Our researchers are using the above approaches to gain groundbreaking insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying a wide range of fundamental cellular processes such as chromosome segregation and cell division, signal transduction, protein quality control and degradation, viral infection, RNA processing, post-transcriptional regulation, ciliogenesis, and muscle contraction.


Infrastructure and support for these endeavors are provided by the Electron Microscopy Facility, the Metabolomics Facility, and the Protein Technologies Facility. In coordination with these Core Facilities, scientists at the Vienna BioCenter are continually pushing the boundaries of current technologies, both experimental and computational, to answer biological questions in completely new ways.

Research Groups "Biochemistry, Biophysics, Structure"

Research Group Institute Topic
Ameres IMBA Mechanism and biology of RNA silencing
Bachmair MFPL Protein modifiers in plants
Belkhadir GMI Plant cell signalling at the interface of growth and defences
Berger GMI Chromatin Architecture and Function
Blaas MFPL Early interactions of viruses with host cells
Blaesi MFPL Post-transcriptional regulation in Bacteria and Archaea
Brennecke IMBA Transposon silencing & heterochromatin formation by small RNAs
Campbell MFPL Mechanisms that ensure chromosome segregation fidelity in mitosis
Clausen IMP Molecular mechanisms of protein quality control
Dagdas GMI The role of autophagy in plant development and stress tolerance
Djamei GMI Effectomics: Exploring the Toolbox of Plant Pathogens
Djinovic MFPL Structural Biology of the Cytoskeleton
Dong MFPL Structural studies of ciliogenesis
Foisner MFPL Lamins in nuclear organization and human disease
Gerlich IMBA Assembly and function of the cell division machinery
Hartig MFPL Origin and biogenesis of peroxisomes
Haselbach IMP Watching molecular machines in action
Ikeda IMBA Linear ubiquitination in inflammation, cell death and autophagy
Ivessa MFPL Protein biogenesis and degradation from the ER
Juffmann MFPL Quantum Microscopy and Biophysics
Koehler MFPL Nuclear Pores - Regulators of Chromatin and Membrane Dynamics
Konrat MFPL Computational Biology and Biomolecular NMR Spectroscopy
Kowalski MFPL Molecular and structural biology of picornaviruses
Kraft MFPL Regulation and signaling in autophagy
Kuchler MFPL Host-Pathogen Interactions & Mechanisms of Drug Resistance & Fungal Pathogenesis
Leonard MFPL Structural Biology of Lipid-Activated Signal Transduction
Martens MFPL Molecular Mechanisms of Autophagy
Martinez MFPL Biochemistry, physiology and disease of the tRNA splicing pathway in mammalian cells
Moll MFPL Ribosome Heterogeneity in Bacteria
Muellner MFPL Erythrocyte (patho)physiology and storage in transfusion units
Nimpf MFPL ApoER2 and VLDL Receptor
Ogris MFPL PP2A enzyme biogenesis and monoclonal antibodies
Pauli IMP Functions of short translated open reading frames (ORFs) in the context of development
Peters IMP Mitosis and chromosome biology
Plaschka IMP mRNA processing and regulation
Propst MFPL The neuronal cytoskeleton in axon guidance
Schloegelhofer MFPL Meiotic Recombination
Schroeder MFPL Riboregulation of transcription - how RNA controls its own synthesis
Skern MFPL Interactions between viruses and cells
Slade MFPL DNA damage response
Stark IMP Understanding transcriptional regulation
Vaziri IMP Dynamics of coupled biological systems – methods and phenomena
Yudushkin MFPL Functional imaging of signaling networks
Zagrovic MFPL Molecular Biophysics
Karagoez MFPL Protein quality control in the endoplasmic reticulum
Otsuka MFPL Intra-cellular Communication between the ER and the Nucleus
Falk MFPL Biogenesis and Action of small RNAs
Saha IMBA Role of macromolecular phase separation in germline cell fate and totipotency